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Edited by
Be t t i n a B u m e r
Edited by
Bettina Bumer
D. \% Printworld (P) Ltd.
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Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity /
edited by Bettina Bumer.
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Mysticism aivism. 2. Mysticism
Christianity. I. Bumer, Bettina, 1940-
ISBN 81-246-0096-1
First Published in India in 1997
Abhishiktananda Society.
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Introduction ix
Bettina Bumer
What is Mysticism? 1
Alois M. Haas
Source of all Bliss: Mysticism of aiva Siddhnta 37
Swami Nityananda Giri
Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 73
Raimon Panikkar
I. The Approach 74
1. The Occasion 74
2. The Notions 79
3. Three Anthropologies 94
a) Individualistic 96
b) Personalistic 100
c) Adhytmic 109
II. The Utterances 114
1. Abba, Pater! 133
2. I and the Father are One 147
3. I should go 159
III. Christs Mysticism 168
1. Eva me suttam 169
2. Itipasymi 170
3. Satpurusa 173
Divine Recognition: Pratyabhijn 179
H.N. Chakravarty
On Letting God be God: Meister Eckhart and
the Lure of the Desert 201
Sr. Brigitte
/ /
The Divine Way: Smbhavopya in Kashmir Saivism 217
B.N. Pandit
vi Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Unknowing and Personalism
in the Theological Tradition of Christian East
Serge Descy
Saktipta: Grace in Kashmir Saivism
Jankinath Kaul
Hadewijch of Antwerp and Hadewijch II: Mysticism
of Being in the Thirteenth Century in Belgium
0 . Baumer-Despeigne
Enclosed in God: The Joyful Surprise of One-ing.
The Experience of Julian of Norwich
C. Murray Rogers
The Active Mysticism of St Ignatius Loyola
G. Gispert-Sauch
Aesthetics of Mysticism or Mysticism of Aesthetics?
The Approach of Kashmir Saivism
Bettina Bumer
1. Bibliography R. Panikkar
2. Abbreviations and
Bibliography Kashmir Saivism
3. About the Contributors
Our thanks are due to all the participants of the Rajpur Sem
inar, not only the authors of the papers, but also the respon
dents and discussants. We thank the contributors for their
patience, since the publication of this Volume was delayed
for several reasons.
We thank Prof. A. Haas for permitting us to include his
article in this Volume, and Dr F. Wohrer for looking after
the translation from the German.
Prof. R. Panikkar has not only taken much care in revising
his contribution, but he was also guiding and encouraging me
in the Rajpur Seminar, as well as with this publication.
Ft G. Gispert-Sauch has assisted me in noting down and
writing summaries of the discussions.
Fr James Stuart has been kind to edit the English of most
of the articles.
Mr-G.K. Chatterjee has fed the articles into the computer,
and Mr D.K. Sahoo has prepared the camera-ready copy for
the press with great care and dedication.
The Abhishiktananda Society has supported the Seminar
and the preparation of the press-copy, mostly financed by the
royalties of the books of Abhishiktananda.
In the heart of every man there is something
a drive? which is already there when he
is born and will haunt him unremittingly until
his last breath. It is a mystery which encom
passes him on every side, but one which none
of his faculties can ever attain to or, still less,
lay hold of. It cannot be located in anything
that can be seen,.heard, touched or known in
this world. There is no sign for it . . . It is a
bursting asunder at the very heart of being,
something utterly unbearable. But neverthe
less this is the price of finding the treasure
that is without name or form or sign. It is the
unique splendour of the Self but no one is
left in its presence to exclaim, How beautiful
it is!
Abhishiktananda, The Further Shore, p. 37
I am He.
Jn 4.26
In our times of narrow fundamentalism and religious con
flicts, a dialogue of religions is not a luxury, but a necessity.
But dialogue in the true and etymological sense should
mean a piercing through the logos} transcending the logi
cal, the verbal, the social and institutional levels in order to
come to a real meeting beyond the infinite differences of re
ligious expressions. Institutional dialogues do not bring the
followers of different religions closer to each other, unless a
real spiritual meeting takes place. The true meeting-point is
at the mystical level, in the cave of the heart.2 If two per
sons, and more so two spiritual persons, truly meet, they do
not remain the same. A mutual transformation takes place
which does not allow the followers of a particular tradition
to remain exclusivistic, because one realizes that the spiri
tual reality that one aims at may also be present in another
tradition, though in a different form and language. Therefore
dialogue at the spiritual level is one of the most important
! Cf. R. Panikkar, The Dialogical Dialogue, in F. Whaling (ed.),
The Worl ds Religious Tradit ions, Edinburgh 1984, p. 218; see also R.
Panikkar, Myth, Faith and Hermeneut ics, Bangalore, 1983, pp. 232-57,
and The Intrareligious Dialogue, New York, The Paulist Press, 1978;
Bangalore 1984.
2In the favourite expression of Abhishiktananda, taken from the
Upanisads. Cp. his book Hi ndu-Chri st ian Meet ing-Poi nt Within the
Cave of the Heart , Delhi, ISPCK, 1st edn. 1969, reprint 1983.
X Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
means of bringing about an understanding between different
people, cultures and religions.
One of the etymologies of the word mysticism, derived
from the Greek mi/eo, has also the sense of closing a wound
which has been split open, hence healing. Mystic then
means to restore original unity, which through the embar
rassing manifoldness of empirical appearances is temporarily
broken or obscured.3 Our time is in need of a mysticism of
this kind, which can heal the wounds of differences, separa
tion and alienation of human beings, Man and Nature, Man
and the ultimate Reality, by whatever name we call it.
It is not a modern idea that the closer a person, a group
or a tradition is to the mystical experience, the less do they
feel the differences between the various religious expressions.
Thus the Saiva mystic Utpaladeva of the ninth century ex
claims, after realizing his oneness with Siva:
Glory to you, 0 arva,
who are the essence of the right-handed path,
who are the essence of the left-handed path,4
who belong to every tradition
and to no tradition at all.
Glory to you, 0 God,
who can be worshipped in any manner,
in any place,
in whatever form at all.
Sivastotravali 2.19-20
The mystic is aware of the relativity of any path, and only
such a person has the inner freedom to transcend the limita
tions of tradition.
3Betty Heimann, Opposites: Contrasts or Complements in early
Greek and Indian Philosophy?, in: The Adyar Library Bulletin, Vol.
XXV, 1-4, 1961, pp. 226-27.
4 Dahsinacara and vmcara are two Tantric traditions usually con
sidered to be mutually exclusive.
Introduction xi
In the Christian tradition, thinkers like Ramon Lull, Nico
las of Cusa and others have foreseen a spiritual dialogue of
different religions, which may be coming true only in our
days. But here the extremes have to be avoided: an indis
criminate mixing of traditions in a spiritual supermarket, a
narrow fundamentalism fearful of losing its self-identity, and
the spiritual indifference created by materialism. No doubt
we have to dive deep in the existing spiritual traditions of
humankind in order to overcome the spiritual crisis of our
times. The saying of the great Catholic theologian Karl Rah-
ner that only the mystic will survive has almost become a
common-place, and one wishes it would become a practical
The present book is the outcome of a spiritual dialogue
between Saivas and Christians, more than a comparative
study of Saiva and Christian mysticism, because any compar
ison from a one-sided perspective cannot really help to bridge
the gulf between traditions. Such a comparison is not even
able to clarify concepts, because those very concepts are the
outcome of an experience. They can only be communicated
from within a living tradition. Therefore the believers of each
tradition have to speak for themselves, and the comparison
will emerge in a dialogue, not in any a priori intellectual po
sition. No preconceived ideas of either oneness or difference,
abheda or bheda, are guiding the studies of these two tradi
tions. If there is any presupposition, it is the acknowledgment
of differences as well as an openness for unity. In the words of
Gopinath Kaviraj, one of the greatest authorities on Tantra
and Kashmir Saivism: There are different ways of approach
to this Supreme Experience and there are infinite shades of
differences among the various ways. The Supreme Experience
is certainly one and the same and yet there is a characteris
5Cp. Karl Rahner, Schriften zur Theologie VII, Einsiedeln, 2nd edn.
1971, p. 19.
xii Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
tic quiddity ( visesa) in each individual, which has an abiding
spiritual value.556 We may just think of the difference between
a Ramakrishna and a Ramana Maharshi, or between a Fran
cis of Assisi and a John of the Cross. These differences attract
us as much as their unity.
The second question to be clarified is: What do we un
derstand by mysticism5, and what are the Indian equivalents
of this term? The important article by Alois Haas throws
much light on the history and use of the term in the West
ern mostly Christian tradition. If we try to translate
this into Indian terms mostly based on Sanskrit we of
ten come across the term rahasyavdda, secret doctrine5. This
is not satisfactory because our emphasis is not on the -xsm,
nor on the -vada, i.e. a doctrine or theory, but on an expe
rience, or a state of being. In this sense other words from
the Indian traditions may be considered and explored: dtma-
sdksdtkdra, yoga, samddhi, samdvesa, anubhava, jivanmukti,
bodhi, pratyabhijnd and others. Of course, our speaking about
these terms or the mystical experience should not be con
fused with the experience as such, and one has to remain
constantly aware of the mystical difference5. And yet, the
talking about5should, ideally, emerge from or lead to an ex
perience. Alois Haas has dealt with this question not only in
the present article, but in many of his writings.7
Another objection has often been raised, that is, if a mys
tic has realized something he or she should keep silence to
preserve the unspeakability of the experience. But the con
trary is true. Most of the mystics of whom we know have
spoken, written and sung about the reality they have experi
enced. Meister Eckhart says that even if nobody were ready
6Some salient features of Mysticism , in: Selected Wri ti ngs of MM
Gopinath Kavi raj , Varanasi 1990, p. 150.
7Cp. the latest publication: Alois M. Haas, Mystik als Aussage, Frank
furt, 1996.
Introduction xiii
to listen to his sermons, he would preach to the wooden chairs
in the Church. And yet he says that nobody can receive this
truth who has not become it.8 Abhinavagupta says that he-
writes his works in order to enlighten his disciples. Thus a
principal motivation of the mystic to speak is compassion
and the desire to illuminate those who are ignorant of their
own true nature. In many mystic writings we find an expla
nation about the expression in words of what is really beyond
words. A great mystic and theologian like Gregory Palamas
On this account, although we have written at
length about stillness, whether enjoined to do so
by the fathers, or at the request of our brethren,
we have never dared to write about deification.
But now, since there is need to speak, we will
speak, reverently, with the Lords grace, though
to describe it is beyond our skill. For even when
spoken of, deification remains unutterable: as the
Fathers say, it can be identified only by those who
have been blessed with it.9
The paradox between silence and speech or writing is a con
stant and inevitable topic of mysticism.
By mysticism we do not mean any extreme emotional
states, nor dry intellectual convictions. There may be many
phenomena associated with the mystical experience, depend
ing often on the psychic condition of the person undergoing
them, but it is not these extraordinary phenomena which are
the essence of mysticism. They are only symptoms, like the
five cihnas or signs of the yogin in Krama mysticism. The
essence of the mystical experience can be said to be God-
realization, the attainment or recognition (pratyabhijnd) of
8See the article; pp. 203-19 by Sr. Brigitte in this volume.
9Defence of the Hesychasts, 3, 1, 32, Works 1, p. 644.
xiv Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ones own true nature (svasvarupo), illumination or union.
However it may be termed, what is important is the attain
ment of a state of being which is our very own ultimate
reality, and at the same time the reality of God or the
Absolute, the Divine Love or the ultimate I. And if we speak
of attainment, this is never automatic or the result of some
human effort, it is received through grace, some unexpected,
overwhelming, blissful surprise. Here again, Kashmir Saivism
has the beautiful term vismaya, the wonder of surprise. Ulti
mately it is wrong to speak of attaining.
All this is implied in the word mysticism: (1) It is the at
tainment of a Reality which has ever been with us and which
is our inmost nature, as well as that of the whole of reality.
(2) It is never the result of some action, effort, ritual or even
desire though all these may be useful at a preliminary
stage. It is always something happening, given, graciously
bestowed and not deserved. There can be a spiritual search,
but not a mystical search. (3) It is not a momentary mood or
emotional extravagance: if momentary it is a moment which
touches eternity, if emotional it touches the source of all emo
tion, the source of Love.
All the mystic has to do is to empty his mind from
thoughts, images and forms, what is called nirvikalpa in all
the traditions of Yoga. Thus we read in Evagrius Ponticus:
When you are praying, do not shape within your
self any image of the Deity, and do not let your
mind be stamped with the impress of any form;
but approach the Immaterial in an immaterial
manner ... Prayer means the shedding of thoughts
... Blessed is the intellect that has acquired com
plete freedom from sensations during prayer.10
10 On Prayer, quoted from: K. Ware, Ways of Prayer and Contempla
tion, I. Eastern, in Christian Spirit uali ty I, Origins to the Twelfth Cen-
Introduction XV
The mystic attains a pure state of being one with ones real
nature, which is divine, where there is neither acceptance nor
rejection of anything. Abhinavagupta refers to this highest
state in some of his mystical hymns:
There is no need of spiritual progress,
nor of contemplation, disputation or discussion,
nor meditation, concentration nor even the effort
of prayer
Please tell me clearly: What is supreme Truth?
Listen: Neither renounce nor possess anything,
share in the joy of the total Reality
and be as you are!
Anuttardstika, v. l
* * *
Most of the articles contained in this Volume were papers
presented at a Seminar on Mysticism: Saiva and Christian,
held in Rajpur, Dehra Dun, in November 1990 under the
auspices of the Abhishiktananda Society. The first article by
Alois Haas has been added in order to clarify the very concept
of mysticism, and the last one by the editor is intended to
show another aspect which is integral to 3aiva mysticism,
that is its being the elder brother (in the words of Abhinava
gupta) of the aesthetic experience.
Raimon Panikkars presentation on the mysticism of Jesus
the Christ has been greatly enlarged for this publication,
taking into account a long history and many controversies
around the central figure of Christianity. His selection of few
of Christs mahdvakyas and their interpretation could be seen
as what is now called intercultural exegesis, which is an im
portant instrument for bringing about a mutual understand
ing in this case between Christianity and Hinduism.
tury, ed. by Bernard McGinn and John MeyendorfT, New York, Cross
road, 1985, p. 399.
xvi Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
The general approach of the Seminar was that the follow
ers of a particular tradition should speak for themselves and
present their own tradition. Thus scholars as well as prac
titioners of Saiva Siddhanta (Swami Nityananda Giri, T.N.
Ramachandran11) and Kashmir Saivism (H.N. Chakravarty,
B.N. Pandit, J.N. Kaul) have presented various aspects of the
mysticism of their schools. Among the Christian mystics, the
following are represented here: Meister Eckhart (Sr. Brigitte),
Hadewijch ( 0 . Baumer-Despeigne), Julian of Norwich (Mur
ray Rogers) and Ignatius Loyola (G. Gispert-Sauch). The vast
mystical traditions of Eastern Christianity have been pre
sented in only one article (S. Descy).
The present selection is certainly far from complete, but
it can still provide an insight into both major mystical tradi
tions and lead to a mutual understanding. Corresponding to
the two Christian women mystics presented here, Hadewijch
and Julian, it would have been desirable to present two Saiva
women mystics, such as Lai Ded (LallesvarT) of Kashmir and
Akka MahadevT of the Vlrasaiva tradition of Karnataka, but
this has not been possible. No attempt has been made to de
velop an overall mystical theology, but the purpose of this
volume is to let the various traditions speak for themselves.
Besides, it has not been possible to include the summaries
of the discussions and dialogues, which were most enriching,
and much less to let the silence speak which was shared by
the participants of different traditions in meditation.
The symbol of the intertwining of trident and cross has
been drawn by Sri S. Dorai who prepared a number of ver
sions. As any symbol, it can speak for itself.
While an attempt has been made to edit the articles in
a certain uniform way, the styles and formats of the authors
were so different that complete uniformity would have done
11 His article was not ready to be included in this volume.
Introduction xvii
violence to the articles. The different styles have therefore
been respected.
* * *
Against the most common misunderstanding of mysti
cism, that it is something so sublime, transcendent and unatt
ainable, far removed from daily life and experience, I want to
conclude this introduction by a very similar injunction found
in two historically unrelated texts: the Vijna Bhairava
Tantra of Kashmir Saivism, and Meister Eckharts final words
to his disciples.
The Vijna Bhairava says:
yatra yatra mano yti bhye vbhyantare3pi v,
tatra tatra sivvasth vypakatvt kva ysyati.
v . 116
Wherever the mind goes,
whether outside or within,
there itself is the state of Siva.
Since He is all-pervading,
where else could the mind go?
The Master of German mysticism gives to his friends the
following parting instruction as the master key to mystical
It often happens that what seems trivial to us
is greater in Gods sight than what looms large
in our eyes. Therefore we should accept all things
equally from God, not ever looking and wondering
which is greater, or higher, or better. We should
just follow where God points out for us, that is,
what we are inclined to and to which we are most
often directed, and where our bent is. If a man
were to follow that path, God would give him the
xviii Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
most in the least, and would not fail him. ... But
the noblest and best thing would be this, if a man
were come to such equality, with such calm and
certainty that he could find God and enjoy Him in
any way and in all things, without having to wait
for anything or chase after anything: that would
delight me!12
It can be seen therefore that the authentic mystical traditions
do not see mysticism as an experience alien to our common
experience, but that it rather leads us to a deeper perception
and to a more balanced view of reality. Thus thd^true en
counter between two (or more) spiritual traditions can help
us even in rediscovering our own, often hidden, treasures.
Since the Rajpur Seminar has been inspired by the ideas
and ideals of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux, 1910-
1973), who had devoted his life to a spiritual dialogue of
Hinduism and Christianity, this book is also dedicated to his
Varanasi Bet t i na Baumer
and Lent 1997
12Meister Eckhart, Sermons and Treatises, Vol. Ill, ed. by M. O\ C.
Walshe, Element Books, 1990, pp. 147-48.
Alois M. Haas
With unsurpassed honesty Tauler, in Sermon 41, makes the
following confession about his own efforts to gain mystical
Kinder, kumet der mensche recht in disen grunt
und in dis wesen, sint sicherf so mus dis netz von
not rissen. Nut wenent, das ich mich dis ut an-
neme, das ich ut her zukomen si, allein enkein
lerer nut ensulle leren, das er selber von lebende
nut enhabe. Doch ist es ze noten gnug, das er es
minne und meine und nut do wider entu. Doch
wissent das es nut anders enmag sin.
Vetter 175, 3-7
[My children! If man indeed should reach the
ground of the soul and this core of being, heed
this: this web must needs be rent. Fancy not that
I claim this for myself or have partaken of such ex
perience. Though no teacher should guide others
in what he himself has not witnessed in his life.
Yet for want of better it may suffice that he love
and mean what he teach and undertake nothing
counter to it. Know ye that it cannot be other.]
' Thi s paper was first published in German in: Alois M. Haas, Got -
Heiden, Gottlieben. Zur volkssprachlichen Mystik im Mi tt elal ter, Frank
furt a. Main 1989, pp. 23-44. Translated from the German original by
Ian Mansfield (University of Edinburgh), in collaboration with Franz
Whrer (University of Vienna).
2 Mysticism in Shaivism ancl Christianity
With all due respect and with infinite deference for this mod
esty, I would like to use these words as the interpretational
basis of my concern with mysticism. Needless to say, I have
never been granted any mystical experience in my life ( cvon
lebende). Yet I have devoted myself to the subject of mys
ticism and believed in it (minne und meine es) for decades,
although I often live contrary to it. Here I would have to
make a public confession, whose embarrassing and delicate
aspects I would like to spare the reader. I would prefer to
generalize. If it is true that mans cognitive faculty unites
him with the object of cognition, all concern with mysticism
must surely hinge on the unity with its object at a hidden
point in mysticisms intrinsic panorama however objective
and buttressed by mere rationality mysticism may be. Oth
erwise there will be no possibility of interpretation. This also
applies to the ever celebrated and demanded criterion of the
objective nature of scientific results, which are frequently only
the inadequate products of ideology anyway. This does not
mean that we should abandon thinking, on the contrary, it
means it should be applied rigorously and uncompromisingly.
As hardly anywhere else, the concept of mysticism seems
to point to a fundamental flaw in mans ability to devise
clearly defined categories. After all, the application of the
concept of mysticism handed down in history and current to
day evinces such a wealth of possible meanings and connota
tions that we may despair of ever finding an appropriate and
workable definition. The abundance of meanings attached to
the concept of mysticism will become clear, when it is con
sidered how one and the same subject matter has been in
terpreted in the most divergent ways by different disciplines,
without there being any prospect of these readings ever being
In its most general sense, mysticism can be understood as
the sphere of religious experience in which an intense union
Haas: What is Mysticism? 3
occurs between the subject and the object of this experience
in some or other indefinable way. The question immediately
arises as to whether mysticism merely implies the experi
ence itself, or also the subsequent process of communication,
i.e. its narrative or reflective reproduction. In practice, both
are fused in the concept of mysticism, as experience would re
main dumb if it were not conveyed. Hence mysticism should
be divided into two fundamentally distinct cQmponents, so
that several disciplines can and must necessarily undertake
to explore the phenomenon from their own specific angles.
Of course, theology and, in particular, the department
formerly called asceticism and mysticism, but today usu
ally termed spirituality (or the history of spirituality) is
in charge of mysticism. This explains why the profane dis
ciplines of the philosophy of religion and the psychology of
religion have likewise a legitimate interest in mystical expe
riences and their interpretation, as it would be a truism to
say that mysticism is an essential component of all religions.
Moreover, as mystical experiences are always extreme psycho
logical phenomena, both rare and exceptional, medicine, psy
chology (the medical and anthropological approaches), as well
as psychoanalysis display a more than average interest in the
empirical dimension. This scientific approach to mysticism
has gained in importance since William James,2 presumably
because an artificially induced release of para-normal psy
chological states altered states of consciousness3, cos
2W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, A St udy in Hu
man Nat ure, New York 1902; E. Herms, Radical Empi rici sm, Studi en zur
Psychol ogie, Met aphysik und Religionstheorie William James*, Gtersloh
3Cp. Alt ered Stat es of Consciousness, a collection of critical essays,
ed. by Ch. T. Tart, New York 1969. From this has developed a sepa
rate branch of psychology: Transpersonal psychology; cp. Ch. T. Tart,
Transpersonal Psychologies, New York 1975; R. Assagioli, Handbook
of Psychosynt hesis, Appli ed Transpersonal Psychology, German transi.,
4 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
mic consciousness4 etc. by means of psychedelic drugs or
meditational techniques5 has today become a highly acute
issue in our affluent consumer society. However, on its lowest
semantic level, the concept of mysticism has always been held
to include the fields of occultism, magic, prophecy and astrol
ogy termed nebbie mistiche by Sturlese. Yet today the Ger-
ttian language has a separate concept for these fields, Mys
tizismus, and 110 longer links them with the word Mystik6.
Freiburg i. Br. 1978; R.E. Ornstein, The Psychology of Consciousness,
New York 1972; C. Naranjo/R.E. Ornstein, On the Psychology of Medi
tation, New York 1971.
4Anyone discussing the subject of mystical experience* in the USA
and Canada will be immediately confronted with the study by the Cana
dian physician Richard Maurice Bucke (1868-1899), entitled Cosmi c
Consciousness, first published in 1901 (24th edn. 1967). See also H.J.
Urban, Uber-Bewutsein nach Bucke und Wehr, Innsbruck and Vi
enna 1950.
5On the formal structure of meditational techniques, see (in lieu
of a more exhaustive survey, not to be provided in the context of this
paper) the synopsis given by R. Bleistein/H.G. Lubkoll/R.Pftzner,
Tren nach innen, Wege zur Medi t at i on, Munich 1974; on the evalu
ation of the phenomenon in terms of modern (French) philosophy, see
U. Liebmann-Schaub, Kultur und Subkultur*, Zur Charakteristik irra
tionalistischer Deutungssysteme, DVJs 53 (1979), 125-62. On drug-
mysticism see (a selection only!) R. Gelpke, Vom Rausch im Orient und
Okzident , Stuttgart 1966; R.E.L. Masters/J. Houston, The Varieties of
Psychedelic Experience, New York 1966; W.H. Clark, Chemische Extasc,
Drogen und Religion, Salzburg 1971; Josuttis/H. Leuner (eds), Religion
und Droge, Stuttgart 1972; H. Cancik (ed.), Rausch - Ekstase - Mystik,
Dsseldorf 1978. There is no need to draw special attention to the per
severing significance of the views on drugs and mysticism expressed by
Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and Ernst Jnger.
6Cp. H. Silberer, Probleme der Mystik und Ihrer Symbolik, Vi
enna 1914 (reprint: Darmstadt 1961) (alchemy as a mystical art);
B. Grabinski, Neuere Mystik, Eine Darstellung und Untersuchung der
bersinnlichen Phnomene, Hildesheim 1916; M. Kemmerich, Das Welt
bild des Myst i kers, Leipzig 1926; K. Aram, Magie und Mystik in Vergan
genheit und Gegenwart, Berlin 1929; B.H. Streeter, Reality, A New Cor
relation of Sci ence and Rel igion, London 1935; P.K. Hoffmann-Reihhoff,
Versuch ei ner Met aphysik zum Weltbild der Mystik, Bonn 1931: N. Fer-
Haas: What is Mysticism? 5
The common denominator between the empirical sciences,
parapsychology and PSI is the liminal psychological occur
rence conveyed by mysticism in the broadest sense of the
term. It is true that mathematics,7, logic8, physics9, (of late),
ethnology,10 and behavioural research,11 have evinced an in
terest in the analysis and explanation of mystical phenomena
and have done so for quite legitimate reasons; the main one
being the desire to establish and elaborate more tangible cat
egories for the understanding of contexts not readily accessi
ger, Magie und Mystik, Gegensatz und Zusammenhang, Zurich 1935; R.
Crookall, The Int erpret ati on of Cosmic and Mystical Experiences, Lon
don 1969; J. Zeisel, Entschleierte Myst i k, Freiburg i.Br. 1984; W. Loe-
sen, Mystiek, Mysteri e en Mystificatie, Amsterdam 1976. See also, the
somewhat heterogeneous medley of information given by A. C-rtel in:
A Di ct i onary of Esoteric Words, New York 1967; F. Gaynor, Di ct i onary
of Myst i ci sm, London 1974. Quotation from L. Sturlese, Eckhart,
Teodorico e Picardi nella Summa Philosophiae di Nicola di Strasborgo,
Giornale critico della Filosophia Italiana 61 (1982) 83-206, I.e.p. 198.
7K. Joel, Der Ursprung der Naturphilosophie aus dem Geiste der
Mystik, 1926; F.C. Endres, Die Zahl in Mystik und Glauben der Kul
turvlker, Zurich 1935 (re-edited by A. Schimmel, Cologne 1985).
8B. Russell, Myst i ci sm and Logic, London 1910. 12th edn., 1963.
9F. Capra, Der kosmische Reigen, Physik und stliche Mystik -
ein zei tgemsses Weltbild, Berne 6th edn. 1983; F. Capra, Wendezcit ,
Baustei ne fr ein neues Weltbild, Berne 2nd. edn. 1983; M. Talbot, Mys-
ti ci sme et physi que nouvelle, Paris 1984.
10H.P. Duerr, Der Wissenschaftl er und das Irrati onale, 2 vols, Frank
furt a.M. 1981; H.P. Duerr, Traumzeit, Uber die Grenze zwischen Wild
nis und Zivili sati on, Frankfurt a.M. 1978; R. Gehlen/B. Wolf (eds), Der
glserne Zaun, Aufst ze zu H.P. Duerrs uTraumzeitn, Frankfurt a.M.
1983. On this see also the issues of the periodical Unter dein Pflaster
liegt der Strand. It does not matter to me in this context if, or to what
extent, this kind of research is generally accepted or not.
11K. Lorenz, Die Rckseit e des Spiegels, Versuch ei ner Nat ur
geschichte des menschli chen Erkennens, Munich 2nd edn. 1973.
6 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ble to the natural sciences. History12 and sociology13 for their
part have focussed their curiosity on mysticism in their en
deavour to grasp its historical impact (e.g. in revolutionary
ideals14) and social group mentalities.
Apart from the specifically epistemological concern shown
by theology in mysticism, it is above all philosophy, poetry
and philology that devote attention to mysticism out of a
genuine awareness of affinity. I will deal with these aspects
A few general remarks might be apposite in view of the
wide range of proposals as to what mysticism may be in
terms of history, subject matter, definition and content. Ev
ery branch of science has its own heuristic methods, its a
prions, and its objective and methodological assumptions.
Empirical psychology15 or the psychology of consciousness,
12In particular the achievements of the history of religion should be
mentioned here (e.g. the work of Mircea Eliade). In a more restricted
historical sense, the studies of Herbert Grundmann are still exemplary:
Religise Bewegungen im Mi tt elal ter, Darmstadt 2nd. edn. 1961; the
same, Ausgewhlt e Aufst ze, Teil 1: Religise Bewegungen, Stuttgart
13 E. Troeltsch, Die Sozi all ehren der chri stlichen Kirchen und Gruppen,
Tbingen 1919 (=Gesammelte Schriften, 1. Bd.); M. Weber, Gesammel t e
Aufst ze zur Religionssoziologie, 3 vols., Tbingen 1972/1976.
14E.Topitsch, Gottwerdung und Revolution, Munich 1973; on Emst
Blochs interest in mysticism see K.P. Steinacker-Berghuser, Das
Verhltnis der Phil osophie Ernst Blochs zur Myst i k, Diss. Marburg/Lahn
1973; A. F. Christen, Ems t Blochs Met aphysik der Mat eri e, Bonn 1979;
A. Mnster, Utopie, Messiani smus und Apokalypse im Frhwerk von
Ernst Bloch, Frankfurt a.M. 1982. On this see also the secondary litera
ture on Thomas Mntzer and his influence. Finally, see L. Rougier, La
mysti que dmocrati que, Paris 1983.
15The approach to mysticism of empirical psychology is grounded both
in a general psychological interest and in a medical one. From a medical
point of view cp. the studies of J. Lhermitte, Echte und falsche Myst i ker,
Lucerne 1953; H. Thurston, S.J., The Physical Phenomena of Myst i ci sm,
London 1952; A. Michel, Les Pouvoirs du myst i ci sme, Paris 1973. See
also the relevant studies published in Archiv fr Religionspsychologie.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 7
for instance, tend to see mystical experience as a mere psy
chosomatic phenomenon, whose waves and currents can be
monitored by an EEG, indeed even controlled to a certain ex
tent thanks to intentional biofeedback.16 It will be clear that
such an investigation of mystical experiences attaches less im
portance to their religious, ideological, social and historical
dimensions than to their mental structures in an a-historical
context. Hence a fundamental sense of ambiguity informs the
empirical research of mysticism. Should mystical experience
be explored solely as a mental state, or should it be stud
ied in relation to its religious, theological and philosophical
implications, polemically dismissed by Frits Staal17 as mere
superstructures? In his book Exploring Mysticism the In
dologist Staal vehemently pleads in favour of the first alter
native, by asserting that mystical research is just a variant
form of the profane enquiry into the nature of consciousness.
In his view, explorations of this kind should be forbidden to
philologists, historians and phenomenologists of religion.
On the other hand, this new approach is opposed by a
phalanx of scholars who view the contextual historical inter
pretation of mystical experiences as having primary signifi
cance, and legitimately refer to their foundations in religious
- The general psychological interest in mysticism is documented by in-
numerable^publications ranging from the Roman Catholic perspec
tive from Aug. Poulain (Des graces d'oraison, Paris 11th edn. 1931),
Alois Mager (Myst i k als Lehre und Leben, Innsbruck 1934; Mystik als
scelische Wirkli chkeit, Graz 1945) and Otto Karrer (Mystik und Psy
chologic, Schweizer Rundschau 48 [1948] 653-66) to the comprehensive
early monograph by James H. Leuba ( The Psychology of Religious Mys
ti cism, London 1925, 3rd edn. 1972) and more modern views based on
Freud and Jung (cp. Resurgence et derives de la, mystique*, Nouvelle
Revue de Psychoanalyse, n. 22, Automne 1980).
16 For a short summary of recent research see W. Johnston, Si l ent
Musi c, The Science of Meditation, London 1974.
17F. Staal, Exploring Mysticism, Harmondsworth 1975. The modern
topic of mysticism and its iterpretation is discussed in R. Woods, OP
(ed.), Understandi ng Mysticism, New York 1980.
8 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
traditions and doctrines.18 Gershom Scholem puts the views
of many scholars in a nutshell when he says:
Ich mchte. . . Nachdruck darauf legen, da es. . .
Mystik als solche, als ein Phnomen oder eine
Anschauung, die unabhngig von anderem in
sich selber besteht, in der Religionsgeschichte im
Grund gar nicht gibt. Es gibt nicht Mystik an
sich, sondern Mystik von etwas, Mystik einer
bestimmten religisen Form: Mystik des Chris
tentums, Mystik des Islams, Mystik des Juden
tums und dergleichen. Gewi, es steckt etwas Ein
heitliches in diesen mannigfachen historischen
Phnomenen. Dies Einheitliche, dies Objekt
aller Mystik, zeigt sich eben in der Analyse der
18In his early study The Mystical Element of Religion (vol. II, Lon
don 4th edn. 1961, p. 283 f.; German transl. Religion als Ganzheit,
Dsseldorf, 1948, p. 185.) Baron von Hgel wrote: Gibt es, genau
gesprochen, ei ne besonders abgegrenzte, selbstgengcnde, mysti sche Art
der Wirklichkeitserfassung? Best i mmt nicht; und ich glaube, da alle
Irrlmer des Myst i zi smus [Exklusive Mystik as opposed to true myst i
cism, which von Hgel calls Inklusive Mystik] gerade von der Behauptung
ausgehen, da die Mystik ei ne ganz get rennte, vollstnding selbstndige
Art der menschli chen Erfahrung sei. [Is there, to be precise, such a thing
as a clearly delineated, self-sufficient, purely mysti cal manner of under
st andi ng real ity? Certai nly not; and I think that all the fallacies of myst i
ci sm (t he exclusive mystic* as opposed to true mysti cism, called the *in
cl usive myst i c *by von Hgel) proceed from the asserti on that myst i ci sm
is a separate and completely autonomous mode of human experience.]
[Translators note: This is a re-translation of the German translation,
the original English text not being available.] On this see also P. Ne
uner, Religion zwischen Kirche und Mystik. Friedrich von Hgel und der
Moderni smus, Frankurt a.M. 1977, p. 49ff. Steven T. Katz and the group
of scholars around him have put particular emphasis on the view that
mystical experience is automatically determined by tradition and can
not be reasonably divorced from the historical, cultural and religious
context. Cp. St. T. Katz (ed.), Myst i ci sm and Philosophical Anal ysi s,
London 1978; St. T. Katz (ed.), Myst i ci sm and Religious Tradit ions,
Oxford 1983.
Baas: What is Mysticism? 9
persnlichen Erfahrung der Mystiker. Aber es ist
der modernen Zeit Vorbehalten geblieben, so etwas
wie eine abstrakte Religion der Mystik berhaupt
zu erfinden,19
[I would like . . . to stress that . . . mysticism as
such, as a phenomenon or philosophical outlook,
just does not exist in the history of philosophy
as a detached and autonomous entity. There is
no such thing as mysticism in itself, but only
the mysticism of something, the mysticism of a
specific religious creed: the mysticism of Chris
tianity, the mysticism of Islam, the mysticism of
Judaism, etc. Admittedly, these manifold histori
cal phenomena have something in common. This
common attribute, this object of all mysticism
is manifested in an analysis of the personal expe
rience of mystics. But it has been left to modern
times to contrive something like an abstract reli
gion of mysticism.]
All the same, it is confusing when the same author else-
where2u sees the heterogeneous mystical experience ( das
amorphe mystische Erlebnis, p. 29) as having been realized
in various*stages and degrees, thus conceding the endless
possible interpretations of this experience ( unendliche Deu
tungsmglichkeiten dieser Erfahrung, p. 27), without failing
to notice their unity. Scholem, who is quite willing to accepi
the function and obligatory nature of religious tradition in
the shaping of mystical experience, envisages its unity as a
fact above and beyond all its historical manifestations.
19G. Scholem, Die Jdische Mystik in ihren Haupt st rmungen, Zurich
1957, p. Gf.
20G. Scholern, Zur Kabbala ud ihrer Symbolik, Zurich 19G0, See also
G. Scholem, Offenbarung und Tradition als religiose Kategorien im Ju
dentum', in: Judaica 4, Frankfurt a.M. 1984, pp. 189-228.
On the other hand, an author such as Robert C. Zaehner21
insists on a clear-cut distinction. For him mystical experience
is not a heterogeneous experience, but a spiritual process
differentiated in its mental and substantial structure accord
ing to religious doctrine, a process that can be classified into
three basic types. He distinguishes between (1) panenhenic
or nature mysticism (as in Rimbaud or .lelfcries); (2) monis
tic mysticism (e.g. in the Advaita and in Samkhya-Yoga);
and (3) theistic mysticism (in Christianity, and in the Gita
Zaehners distinction between monistic and theistic mys
ticism, and especially his verdict that monistic mysticism is
not in accordance with actual reality, has often been criti
cized with reference to his religious bias he was a practis
ing Catholic. Zaehners preconceptions were determined by
the context of a theistic mystical system. This is an example
of how the problems increase, the more conceptual accuracy
and scholarly precision are striven for.
Although the basic distinction necessary between experi
ence and the interpreted account of this experience has always
been the source of multifarious assessments of mystical expe
rience by the most varied disciplines, the problems of inter
pretation multiply when criteria have to be included that are
implied in the scholars personal religious convictions. Here
the ideal of truth becomes unattainable, an ideal that sci
entifically orientated scholars of mysticism try to evade by
10 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
21 Zaehners major studies on Mysticism are: Inde, Israel, Islam, Reli
gions mysti ques et rvl ati ons prophtiques, Paris 1905; Myst i ci sm, Sa
cred and Profane, An Inquiry into some Varieties of Praet er-nat ural
Experience, Oxford 1957; Concordant Discord, The Interdependence of
Faiths, Oxford 1979; Zen, Drugs, and Mysticism, New York 1973; The
Ci t y within the Heart, London 1980.
22 For a critical review of Zaehners position see N. Smart, Interpreta
tion and Mystical Experience*, Religious Studi es 1 (965), pp. 75-87, esp.
p. 76f.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 11
means of a kind of mystical relativism.23 They do so ei
ther by completely resorting to the medical and psychological
plane of interpretation, or by elaborating with precise philo
logical tools a mystical system in the context of its written
revelations only. However, the problem of this relativist ap
proach lies in the fact that a comparative analysis, let us say,
between Christian and Buddhist mysticism, would be point
less if not exactly impossible, because the very comparabil
ity of two systems was excluded a priori for methodological
reasons.24 These difficulties aside, I am convinced that a rel
ative approach is inevitable for a scholarly interpretation of
mystical texts. For what do we have but texts? We do not pos
sess the experiences, but only the texts relating them.25 We
must abide by these necessities. So contextuality is a method
ological must. With the help of a remarkable example Hans
H. Penner has recently demonstrated that such contextuality
must not be confined merely to texts recording individual ex
periences. If they are to be comprehended, contextuality must
be extended as far as possible, i.e. to include the etymologi
cal, terminological, historical, social, economic contexts and,
above all, the overall religious setting. As Penner has shown,
it was for this very reason that the most positive intentions
of the Indian mystical way have been misunderstood in the
West, particularly since the caste-system was neglected as a
constituent of asceticism and mysticism.26 But it is only this
23H.H. Penner, The Mystical Illusion*, Katz (ed.) Myst i ci sm and Re
ligious Tradition [cp. note 18], pp. 89-116. Also Kurt Ruh opts for a rel
ativism of an acceptable kind in the study of mystical texts in: Vorbe
merkungen zu einer neuen Geschichte der abendlndischen Mystik im
Mittelalter*, in: Sit zungsberichte der Bayr. Akad. d. Wi ss. 1982, Heft 7,
p. 8ff.
24 Penner [see note 23], p. 94.
25Cp. J. Seyppel, Mystik als Grenzphnomen und ExistenziaP, in:
J. Sudbrack (ed.), Das Mysteri um und die Mystik, Beit rge zu ei ner
Theologie der chri stlichen Gotteserfahrung, Wrzburg 1974, pp. 111-53.
26 Penner [see note 23], p. 104F.
12 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
dichotomy that makes us aware of the freedom that asceti
cism and mystical experience can provide in India.
If one thing follows from these premises, it is surely that
we must go back to mysticisms historical origins, if we want
to gain even an inkling of what mysticism is or is about. As I
am not remotely in a position to delineate a history of mysti
cism or merely of occidental mysticism, I would like to follow
this postulate only by tracing the history of the word mys
ticism. Then I will return to a more systematic approach
with undue optimism by endeavouring to establish the sta
tus of mystical texts as compared with linguistic procedures
in poetical and philosophical writings. In a final section I will
come back to the Christian concept of theologia mystica. My
restricted viewpoint is inevitably occasioned by my cultural
and spiritual background, the Christian faith and its histori
cal manifestations.
Although classical Greek terms are used in the entire domain
of Christian mysticism, the subject does not seem to be a clas
sical Greek phenomenon at all. There seems to be no clear
evidence of mysticism in the Christian or the Indian sense of
the word before Plotinus.27 The relevant vocabulary consists
of the following group of words: the noun mysticism and the
adjective mystical ( mystikos)\ the latter refers to the noun
mystes (the initiate), and to mysteria, the process of initia
tion as a ritual act, and to myem, the act of initiation itself,
which must be kept a secret by those to be initiated. There is
no direct link between the Greek mysteries, e.g. that of Eleu-
sis, and Christian mysticism. For in the mysteries the mystic
27In the following I gratefully make use of the suggestions made by W.
Burkert, Mysteri en ohne Mystik? Anti ke Kult ur zwischen Unsagbarkeit
und Ilhet ori k [manuscript], Zurich 1983, p. 1; cp. W. Burkert, Gri echis-
chc Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche, Stuttgart 1977, p.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 13
becomes an epoptes, someone who sees the Holy in objective
shape,28 not someone who becomes one with it. Plato became
the mediator between the antique mysteries and (Western)
mysticism in his dialogues Symposion and Phaidros, in which
he combines the ascent of the soul to the most sublime, truly
spiritual vision, with Eros,29 at the same time according con
siderable space to the language of Eleusis. The absorption of
the metaphorical language taken from the mysteries in the
conception of a spiritual ascent resulted in a model of mys
tical diction, which was adopted enthusiastically by the Jew
Philo, and whose attraction early Christianity was unable to
resist an influence first documented in Christian Gnosis
(second century), then in Dionysius, the Areopagite (c. 500).
The fact remains, however, that the words 4mysticism
and 4mystical do not appear in the Bible.30 There is no men
tion of them in the New Testament. In the Old Testament
the word 4mystes does occur, albeit only to dismiss the cults
of the Canaanites.31 The adjective mystikos is used to term
something concerned with the Mysterion, which in turn des
ignates both a human and an eschatological mystery.32 In the
New Testament the only passage in which the word occurs is
in the Synoptic Gospels, where it refers to Gods gift of grace
to the faithful: 44It has been granted to you to know the se
crets of the kingdom of Heaven (Matth. 13,11; cp. Lk. 8,10;
Mk. 4, 11) To quote Hans Urs von Balthasar, the following
conclusion can be drawn for the New Testament:
Auf der Koordinate Offenbarungs-Glaube liegt im
28Burkert [see note 27], pp. 8, 13.
29Burkert, p. 12.
30H.U. von Balthasar, Zur Ortsbestimmung christlicher Mystik, in:
Pneuma und Inst it uti on, Skizzen zur Theologie IV, Einsiedeln 1974, pp.
298-339; esp. p. 298.
31 Wi sdom 12, 6 and 8, 4.
32Cp. Theologisches Wrt erbuch, IV, p. 809fr.; F. Stegmller, in:
Wahrheit und Verkndigung, Munich 1967, p. 599fF.
14 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Neuen Testament der ganze Ton; die subjektiven
Formen, in denen der entgegennehmende Glaube
auftreten kann, werden zwar einigermaen unter
schieden, aber ohne da ein Wertakzent darauf
gelegt oder ein psychologisches Interesse daran be
kundet wird.33
[In the New Testament the whole emphasis is
placed on the axis between revelation and faith;
the subjective forms in which the gift of faith
can appear are differentiated to some extent, but
without any judgement being pronounced or any
psychological interest displayed.]
The Early Fathers and the whole of the Middle Ages very
often used the adjectives mystikos or mysticus in direct se
mantic derivation from the word mysterion,34 and in doing so
intended not only to introduce a psychological dimension to
religious practice, but also and primarily to oust prophecy
which, according to the New Testament, had lost its immedi
ate function after the Saviours coming and subsequently
to replace it with mysticism, thus ushering in a new era in
Christian spirituality.35
It would go too far to list in detail all the different uses
of the adjective mystikos in this restricted context. Generally
speaking, three uses can be distinguished: a biblical, a litur
33von Balthasar [see note 30], p. 300.
34On the patristic passages see L. Bouyer, Mystique, Essai sur
Thistoire dun mot*, La Vie spirituelle, Suppl. N 9, 15 May 1949, pp.
3-23; in German in: J. Sudbrack (ed.), Das Mysteri um [note 25]: Mys
tisch Zur Geschichte eines Wortes, pp. 57-75. Cp. more recently in
particular G.W.H. Lampe, A Pat ri st i c Greek Lexicon, Oxford, 5th edn.
1978, pp. 891-93; pp. 893-94, where the crucial passages of the patristic
period are most accurately listed.
35H.U. von Balthasar, Besondere Gnadengaben und die zwei Wege
des menschlichen Lebens, 1 in: Thomas von Aqui n. Summa Theologica,
Lat i n-German edi tion, Vol. 23, Heidelberg 1954, p. 375.
iiaas: What is Mysticism? 15
gical and a spiritual one.36 All of these three uses have more
to do with the concept of mysticism than is generally thought
Starting with Origen in the first half of the third century,
in biblical exegesis based on the Christian faith, the word
mystical was used to denote the textual meaning underly
ing the obvious literal sense and revealing itself to the inquis
itive reader as the mystery and reality of Christ living in
the individual parts and the whole body of the Church. Di
vine Reality unfolds itself in the Gospels in its mystery-like
mystical sense, one that can also be called the pneumato-
logical or spiritual, because it is revealed objectively and
subjectively in the Holy Spirit; or, alternatively, the allegor
ical sense, because it marks a transition between the old lit
eral meaning and the new pneumatological (or christological)
The ways leading from this doctrine of the four-fold mean
ings of scripture to mysticism are multifarious. The monastic
reading of scripture (lectio),38 in particular, and above all the
meditation on the Song of Songs 39 opened up an exception
ally broad scope for the imagination in which a loving soul
could attain ecstatic union with Christ, her Bridegroom.
The almost universal monopolization of the word mysti
cal in the liturgy demonstrates the apparently objective na
ture of this epithet and its continued association with the
holy mysteries.40 It is always Christs living and hidden
36Cp. Bouyer [note 34].
37von Balthasar [note 30], p. 301.
38 J. Leclercq, Wi ssenschaft und Gottverl angen, Zur Mnchstheologie
des Mitt clalters, Dsseldorf 1963.
39 F. Olily, Hohelied-Studien, Grundzge einer Geschichte der Ho
heliedauslegung des Abendlandes bis um 1200, Wiesbaden 1958; H.
Riedlinger, Die Makel losi gkeit der Kirche in den lateinischen Hohelied
kommentaren des Mitt elal ters, Mnster 1958.
40von Balthasar [note 30], p. 301.
16 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
presence41 what is meant and intended by the mystical
body of the Lord. Later, in a remarkable re-interpretation
of the concept of the corpus mysticumf this was to be the
point of departure of ecclesiology in the Middle Ages.42 Ec-
clesiology was also to be a spiritual dimension which like
the liturgy enabled union with God in our specific spiritual
and mystical sense.
The all-important use of the word mystical in terms
of a specific form of immediate, experiential knowledge of
God43 a use similarly derived from Origen is fertainly
based to the extension of the mystical meaning of scripture
to individual experience. Nobody can grasp scripture who
does not in his innermost soul become one with the realities
it tells us of.44 In this claim, exegesis is directly transformed
into religious experience. Origen says that in Jesus Christ
we have the high priest according to Melchisedechs order,
guide to mystical and ineffable contemplation.45 By taking
up the concept of theoria, both Origen and, subsequently,
the tradition of early Christianity, assumed a classical Greek
ideal of a way of life that Plotinus had succinctly put as:
tois pratiousin he theoria telos the goal of all activ
ity is theoria .46 In Christianity, the key word mystike theo-
41Bouyer, Mystisch [note 34], p. 65.
42H. de Lubac, Corpus Myst i cum, Eucharisti e und Kirche im Mi t t e-
laltcr, Einsiedeln 1969, p. 69fF.
43Bouyer, Mystisch [note 34], p. 68.
44 Commentary on St. John 13, 24; PG 14, 440 C. Quoted in Bouyer
Mystisch [note 34], p. 69.
45Bouyer, Mystisch [note 34], p. 69.
4 Enn. Il l, 6, 1. Quoted by H.G. Beck, Theoria, Ein byzantinischer
Traum?, in: Sit zungsberichte der Bayer. Akad. d. Wi ss. 1983 Heft 7, p.
5; cp. also F. Boll, Vita contemplativa in: F. Boll, Kleine Schri ften zur
Sternkunde des Al t ert ums, Leipzing 1950, pp. 303-31; A.J. Festugiere,
Contemplat ion et vie contemplat ive selon Platon, Paris 3rd edn. 1967;
H. Rausch, Theoria. Von ihrer sakralen zur phil osophischen Bedeutung,
Munich 1982.
ria was to become generally accepted for mystical experience
and found an equivalent as contemplatio mystica in the Latin
Middle Ages.47
However, this terminological issue and its appropriate in
terpretation are of very broad scope. The Christian adap
tation of the Greek, i.e. Platonic theoria called by A.J.
Festugire spiritualit philosophique48 has become the
cause of very divergent views and opinions. Seen by some as
a Christian lapse, it is considered by others to be a necessary
and inevitable form of intercultural exchange. In all discus
sions of the matter a certain anxious caution is always felt on
the part of Christian speakers, who would often render void
the resulting conflation of ideas.
Nevertheless, it is an irrevocable fact in the history of spir
ituality that the Platonic concept of theoria has had a power
ful impact on Christianity, indeed, it has been able to shape
Christian mysticism in the' most persistent manner.49 The
origin of this spiritualit philosophique in Christianity must
be sought in the school of Alexandria and its representatives
St. Clement and Origen. It is from here that a whole series
of Christian Platonic thinkers have issued: in the East, Eva-
grius Ponticus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Diadochus of Photike
and Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite; in the West, St. Au
gustine, Gregory the Great, the Augustinianism of the entire
Middle Ages and the Neoplatonic revival from the twelfth
century onwards.
St. Clement of Alexandria once worded his Christian view
47Cp. Contemplation, DSAM II (1949-1953), cols. 1643-2193; M.E.
Mason, Act i ve Life and Contemplat ive Life, A St udy of the Concepts
from Plato to the Present , Milwaukee, Wise. 1961.
4*A.J. Festugire, L'enfant d'Agrigente suivi de Le Grec et la nature,
Paris 1950, p. 141ff.
49A. Loutli, The Origi ns of the Christian Mystical Tradit ion from
Plat o to Denys, Oxford 1981; E. Hoffmann, Plat onismus und Mystik im
Al t ert um, Heidelberg 1935.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 17
18 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
of the theoricL in his Stromateis as follows:
We shall understand the method of purification
by confession, and the visionary method by analy
sis, attaining to the primary intelligence by analy
sis, beginning at its basic principles. We take away
from the body its natural qualities, removing the
dimension of height, and then that of breadth
and then that of length. The point that remains
is a unit, as it were, having position; if we take
away everything concerned with bodies and the
things called incorporeal, and cast ourselves into
the greatness of Christ, and so advance into the
immeasureable by holiness, we might perhaps at
tain to the conception of the Almighty, knowing
not what He is but what He is not.
(Stromateis V.11.7)50
These ideas were expanded by Dionysius, the Areopagite51
and developed into a mystical theory proper. He must be ac
corded the title of a father of Christian mysticism, both on
the grounds of his influence,52 and his intellectual stature. He
50Quote in Louth [note 49], p. 194.
51 On Dionysius, the Areopagite see R. Roques, L univers dionysien,
Structure hirarchique du monde selon le Pseudo-Denys, Paris 2nd edn.
1983; R. Roques, Problmes pseudodionysiens, in: R. Roques, St ruc
tures thologiques, De la gnose Richard de Saint -Vict or, Paris 1962,
pp. 63-24U; J. Vanneste, Le Mystre de Dieu, Essai sur la structure ra
ti onnell e de la doctrine mysti que du Pseudo-Denys V Areopagit e, Paris
1959; B. Brons, Gott und die Seienden, Unt ersuchungen zum Verhltnis
von neuplatonischer Met aphysik und chri stlicher Tradition bei Di ony
sius Areopagit a, Gttingen 1976; M. Schiavone, Neoplat oni smo e Chris-
ti ancsi mo nello Pseudo Dionigi, Milan 1963; W. Vlker, Kont empl at i on
und Ekstase bei Pseudo-Dionysius, Wiesbaden 1958; H.U. von Balthasar,
Herrlichkeit, Eine theologische sthet ik, 11: Fcher der Sti le, Einsiedeln
1962, pp. 147-214.
52H.F.Dondaine, Le Corpus dionysien de Vuni versi t de Paris au X l l l e
is the pivotal mediator introducing Greek thinking with its
formative impact into Christianty. This is witnessed linguis
tically in his adoption of the diction of the Hellenistic mys
teries, in terms of content, in his transposition of the biblical
mysteries of salvation into an a-historical context, timeless
ness and permanence.53 The a-temporal theoria becomes the
instrument of ua festive and ecclesiastical realization of the
divine Mysteries in their trans-temporal embodiment.54 For
Dionysius, the Areopagite, mystical theology is not only the
title of a short treatise, but, in a deeper sense the mean
ing of all his theological utterances; it does not present ad
ditional guidelines for those gratified with the gift of spe
cial grace. Apart from the fact that Dionysius, the Pseudo-
Areopagite, was long mistaken for the Apostles convert, it
was his first systematization of the theology of mysticism that
surely explains his lasting appeal and almost boundless and
fecund popularity throughout the Middle Ages. Commented
on by John of Scythopolis (in the sixth century) and by Max
imus the Confessor (in the seventh century), the writings of
Dionysius became the main source for Eastern Christian the
ology and mysticism. Translated into Latin time and again
(by Hilduin of St. Denis and John Scotus Eriugena in the
ninth century, by John Sarracenus in the twelfth, by Robert
Grossteste, Bishop of Lincoln, in the thirteenth, by Ambro-
gio Traversari and Marsilio Ficino in the fifteenth), and com
mented on by the greatest theologians (Hugh of St. Victor,
Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas), the Dionysian trea
tises exerted a major influence both on the theology and
the mysticism of the Middle Ages.55 From the reception of
si cle, Home 1953; A. Combes, Jean Gerson, Comment at eur dionysien,
Paris 1973; E. von Ivanka, Plato Christianus, bernahme und Umgest al
tung des Plat onismus durch die Vter, Einsiedeln 1964, pp. 225-89.
53von Balthasar [note 51], p. 156.
54von Balthasar, p. 156f.
55E. von Ivanka, Dionysi us Areopagita, Von den Namen zum Uri-
Haas: What is Mysticism? 19
20 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Dionysius thus originate a literary and theological genre and
the doctrine of mans union with God that goes back to the
Greek theoria.
Unlike what is often termed mysticism today, Dionysian
mysticism is not the description of paranormal states of con
sciousness, the gratiae gratis datae, 56 in which experiential
and sensual knowledge of God is effected by mans union
with Him. Dionysius has a more fundamental approach: striv
ing for mystical contemplation implies setting out on a path.
The goal of this path is becoming united with whkt is be
yond all being and knowing, by unknowing. The process is
described as an ecstasy detached from the self, as a radical
effacement of self-awareness, and as an exclusive alertness for
the sovereign-substantial ray of Divine Darkness.57
The Christianity preached by Dionysius is lmystagogical,
an initiation, a mt/esis, which in conformity with Phaidros
leads to the celestial and sublime visio Dei.58 Aside from
the mystagogy of Proclos, Dionysius refers to Hierotheos, pre
sumably a mystical teacher, who for him was a model as to
how to experience God. For Dionysius indeed possessed wis
dom, be it from scripture, be it that he was gratified with
the wind of the divine Spirit, so that and here Dionysius
takes up a quotation from Aristotle familiar in late antiquity
(Frag. 15)59 he not only studied the Divine, but also ex
perienced and suffered the same; and from the active com
passion, sympatheia, with the Divine he attained the gift of
mystical union, and, together with it, the ultimate goal of
mystical initiation perfection (cp. Div. Nom. 2, 9):60 Ou
nennbaren, Einsiedeln (no date), p. 23.
56Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol. III q.iii, a, 4f.; cp. von Balthasar
[note 35], p. 268ff.
57 Von der mysti schen Theologie 1 (ed. by Ivanka [note 55], p. 91).
58Burkert [note 27], p. 28.
59Cp. Beck [note 46], p. 24.
60Burkert [note 27], p. 19.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 21
motion mathn, all kai pathn ta thea. In these words the
elements of both experience and grace are defined as the fun
damental components underlying all Christian mysticism.61
Quite apart from the fact that the tradition of symboli
cal theology1, of which, unfortunately, nothing has survived,
should present a kind of positive antithesis to the impor
tant negative theology, which existentially requires man to
apply a process of abstraction, and which prepares him for
mystical union with God, the process of mystical voiding1
is by no means one that excludes philosophical reflection as
something inappropriate. Discursive thinking is not a faculty
that is suspended by occurrences effected by God, infused
into the soul and affecting the senses. On the contrary, cog
nitive thought and the subtle conceptual understanding ac
companying it, are means of spiritual ascent leading to a state
of awareness beyond ail logical reasoning or imagining. The
very path leading over what is conceptual becomes a means
of transcending it, of attaining knowledge in which the soul,
entering the Realm of the Invisible and Unthinkable, is em
braced by Divine Night and through love obtains certainty
as to the Presence of Him, veiled by Darkness.62 The soul
only has awareness of what lies beyond the conceptual while
passing through the conceptual. The conceptual proves inad
equate to grasp what is beyond it. The very fact that all the
possibilities of understanding the one and only Cause cogni
tively are listed at the end of the Mystical Theology clearly
demonstrates that all of them were tried and tested. So, ac
cording to Dionysius, both the negative and the positive the
ology are resolved in the via eminentiae, objectively in the
61 It is a moot point as to whether Luthers conception of the vi ta pas-
ji uacan be derived from such a formulation by Dionysius. Cp. Chr. Link,
Vita passiva, Rechtfertigung als Lebensvorgang, Evangelische Theolo
gie 44 (1984) 315-51.
62Ivanka [note 55], p. 24.
22 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
superabundance of God63, subjectively, for the person re
lating it, in a rapturous and effusive mode of speech attribut
ing God with what he is not and cannot be. Union with God
first involves this kind of negation but ultimately accompa
nies the movement upwards into the sovereign-substantial
realm of the Divine, as Dionysius states at the beginning of
his Mystica Thcologia:
But you . . .whenever you strive for mystical con
templation, leave behind you all the senses and
all the workings of the mind, and all the things
of sensation and the intellect and all things not
existing and existing; and, as far as possible rise
up and seek unknowing, the union which is above
all substance and understanding. So, transcend
ing beyond your self, free from everything retain
ing you, you and your entire being will be borne
aloft, away from this worldly existence, to the
sovereign-substantial ray of Divine Darkness.64
This non-cognitive union with God, which the soul may re
ceive as an act of grace, when it ascends to Him unknowing,
is ultimately motivated by love of God as knowledge that is
beyond all knowing, and so is not based on any divinity of
the soul itself, but on a fundamental annihilation of the souls
own being.65 In this respect Dionysius was able to exert an
authentic Christian influence on the Middle Ages.
Two points in Dionysius understanding of mysticism
seem to be important for all of later Christian mysticism.
First, he prepared the literary vessel, the treatise De my$-
tica theologia, in which mystical experience not only found
63von Balthasar [note 51], p. 209. On Neoplatonic antecedents cp. P.
Crome, Symbol und Unzulnglichkeit der Sprache: Jamblichos, Plotin,
Porphyri os, Proklos, Munich 1970.
64 Von der mysti schen Theologie 1 (ed. by Ivanka [note 55], p. 91).
65Cp. Ivanka [note 52], pp. 281-83.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 23
narrative expression, but also received its coherent logical
and theoretical structure. Secondly, this formal structuring
of mystical experience on the plane of the ratio provides from
the very outset both a linguistic and a philosophical frame
work of mystical theology. It is true that Augustines reflec
tions on mystical experience a century before had offered a
model analysis of the psychological side of mystical theology
by proposing a theory of mystical vision,66 but in Dionysius
mystical theory the accent is shifted from the isolated, psy
chologically comprehensible spiritual event to the fundamen
tal question as to how the Christian soul may achieve union
with God at all (a constant eschatological demand). The dis
cussion on mysticism in subsequent history developed up to
the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the
Theologia mystica had its heyday and became established as a
(rather short-lived) scholarly discipline,67 and when a conflict
occurred between two not always reconcilable approaches. On
the one hand, there was the view that normal Christian reli
gious experience culminated in mystical union, on the other,
66Cp. B. Klin, Die Erkenntnislehre des HI. Augusti nus, Diss. Fri
bourg/Switzerland, Sarnen 1920; E. Hendrikx, Augusti ns Verhltnis
zur Mystik, Eine patrist ische Untersuchung, Wrzburg 1936; H.U. von
Balthasar/M.E. Korger, Aurelius Augustinus, Psychologie und Mystik,
De Gencsi arLJjitteram 12, Einsiedeln 1960; M.E. Korge, Grundprob
leme der augustinischen Erkenntnislehre erlutert am Beispiel von De
genesi ad litteram XII1, Recherches Augustiniennes 2 (1962), pp. 33-57;
L. Wittinann, Ascensus, Der Aufstieg zur Transzendenz in der Met a
physik August i ns, Munich 1980; see also relevant essays in u Augusti nus
Magi ster*, 3 vols, Paris n.d.; K. Rahner, Visionen und Prophezeiungen,
Basle 3rd edn. 1958.
67M.de Certeau, Mystique au XVl l e sicle; le problme du langage
mystique, in: L'homme devant Dieu, Mlanges offerts au pre H. de
Lubac, Du moyen ge au sicle des lumires, Paris 1964, pp. 267-91; M.
de Certeau, L'absence de l histoire, Paris 1973; M. de Certeau, Politico
e mist ica, Questi oni di st oria religiosa, Milan 1975; M. de Certeau, La
fable myst i que, XVIe-XVIIe sicle, Paris 1982; R. Spaemann, Reflexion
und Spontanei tt , Studi en ber Fnelon, Stuttgart 1963.
24 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
the attitude that, in a more precise sense, it was the para
normal and charismatic phenomena that elevated a normal
Christian life to the level of mystical experience.68 This is
where the controversy arises as to whether Augustine was a
mystic or not, or the question stemming from Spanish mys
ticism as to the nature of actively acquired and passively
infused contemplation.69
In terms of Christian doctrine, these issues will have to
be qualified by referring to the duties of obedience and pre
paredness that must be fulfilled by believing Christians. Ex
perience in an isolated sense of the word must be accorded
less significance in view of the basic obligations, although the
Bible grants the faithful the freedom that they should seek
the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find Aim.
(Acts 17, 27)70
In the introduction I have referred to the strong interest dis
played in mysticism by different branches of the humanities
and sciences. I ask myself the question as to whether these
affinities do not conceal a hitherto unrecognized potential as
regards how to approach an understanding of religious expe
rience. So in the following I would like at least to outline the
88 On the discussion of this issue among scholars in mysticism see
F.D. Maa, it Mystik im Gesprch, Materialien zur Mystik-Diskussion
in der kath. und evangelischen Theologie Deutschlands nach dem er
sten Weltkrieg, Wrzburg 1972, pp. 83ff.; E. Salmann, Gnadenerfahrung
im Gebet, Zur Theorie der Mystik bei A. Stol z und A . Mager, Diss.
Mnster/W. 1979; von Balthasar [note 30], pp. 313-20.
69Maximilian Sandaei, it Theologia Mystica Clavis, Cologne 1640, p.
156; R. Dalbiez, La controverse de la Contemplation acquise, in: Tech
nique et contemplation, Etudes Carmt l i t ai nes, Paris 1949, pp. 81-145;
von Balthasar, Christliche Mystik heute, in: J.Kotschner (ed.), Der
Weg zum Quell, Teresa von Avil a 1582-1982, Dsseldorf 1982, pp. 11-52,
esp. p. 25.
70Cp. von Balthasar [note 30], p. 319f.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 25
possibilities philosophy and poetry have at their disposal to
render mystical experience intelligible.
1. The history of philosophy blatantly shows that phi
losophy has both a haid and easy task with mysticism. All
too facile an approach has been taken by that kind of phi
losophy, which, without availing itself of the possiblities of
accurate definition germane to it, lumps in sheer monotony
all of mysticism together in the umbrella term Mystizismus,
and disparages it as weird, obscure, confused, subjective,
anti-rational, mysterious, backward, idiosyncratic, mor
bid, degenerate and decadent.71 The eighteenth and nin-
teenth centuries in particular outdid themselves in this kind
of aversion. Let me mention only Kant, Schopenhauer, Feuer
bach, Marx, Diihring, and Nietzsche. Nonetheless, there is a
large number of eminent modern philosophers who view mys
ticism in a much more differentiated manner. Amongst many
others, reference should be made to E. von Hartmann, R. Eu-
cken, F. Mauthner, G. Landauer, E. Cassirer, H. Leisegang,
E. Troeltsch, M. Scheler, K. Jaspers, M. Heidegger, E. Bloch,
L. Wittgenstein, Baumgardt, H. Bergson and a whole series
of Catholic thinkers and religious philosophers.
One fact must be established. All philosophy deriving
from Platonism and Neoplatonism, and medieval Christian
philosophy in particular, has always discussed the question
of the possibility and authenticity of mans union with God
in infinitely varied manners. Mystical experience in its
71 Cp. Hi st orisches Wrterbuch der Phi l osophi e6, Stuttgart 1984, cols.
273ff. On the relationship between philosophy and mysticism see note 18
above. See also G. Kruger, Religiose und profane Welterfahrung, Frank
furt a.M. 1973; Tli.H. Hughes, The Philosophic Basis of Mysticism, Edin
burgh 1937; W. Allen, The Timeless Moment , London n.d.; W.T. Stace,
Myst i ci sm and Phil osophy, London 1961; L. Kolakowski, Falls es keinen
Got t gibt, Munich 1982, pp. 89-138; I. Trethowan, The Absolut e At one
ment , London 1971, pp. 227-86.
26 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
classic definition cognitio Dei experimentalis72 strives for
nothing less than this union. The problem is that philoso
phy and mysticism are viewed separately for the reason that
mystical experience is often improperly equated with personal
spiritual phenomena. As we have seen, we encounter mystical
experience, if we encounter it at all, in the form of language,
i.e. mystology. In language such a private experience can be
conveyed and this is frequently the case. However, an iso
lated experience in the mystical text is often explored beyond
its setting the grace-given union between man and God
as removed from any psychological or narrative dimension.
This process results in mystical theology proper, which by no
means eschews philosophical argument; on the contrary, it
develops it up to the utmost borderline, as it focuses on the
meta-rational or trans-intellectual union between man and
God as the solution to this paradox. A concept of mysticism
such as proposed by Rudolf Otto73 is, of course, inadequate
for such purposes. Speaking of the irrational in the context
of the most illuminating experiences man can have, is obscu
rantist and prohibitory.
What is meant can be shown most clearly in the example
72Tliomas Aquinas, Summa theol. II-II, q.97, a.2; see F.D. Joret, Die
myst i sche Beschauung nach dem hl. Thomas von Aquin, Dlmen/W.
1931, p. 146; on the formula and its reception see A.M. Haas, Die Prob
lematik von Sprache und Erfahrung in der deutschen Mystik*, in: Grund
fragen der Myst i k, Einsiedeln 1974, pp. 73-104, esp. p. 75, note 1 and p.
93, note 45.
73 R. Otto, Das Heilige, Uber das Irrationale in der Idee des Gttlichen
und sein Verhltnis zum Rati onalen, Munich 26th to 28th edns. 1947;
R. Otto, Aufst ze das Numinose betreffend, I/II, Gotha 4th edn. 1929;
R. Otto, Weststli che Mystik, Vergleich und Unterscheidung zur We
sensdeut ung, Munich 3rd edn 1971. This critical comment in no way
detracts from Ottos achievements in establishing a typology of mys
ticism. H.Bremond, L finquiet ude religieuse, 1: Aubes et lendemains de
Conversi on, Paris 6th edn. 1919, p. 129ff. already vehemently criticized
the concept of the irrational* as a category to denote the Mystical.
Hsms: What is Mysticism?
of Meister Eckhart. It is once again he who is at the forefront
of discussion, after recent years have underlined his histori
cal impact on Dominican theology in the fourteenth century.
The philosopher in Meister Eckhart comes to the fore, when,
with rigorous philosophical arguments, he endeavours to ex
pound the self-constitution of human consciousness in the
light of the divine Logos, i.e. the Birth of God.74 To begin
with, it must be conceded that Eckhart scholars of all people
have erroneously, and sometimes distortingly, employed the
word mysticism5 in interpreting Eckhart. Eckhart was one
of the most consistent opponents of all-too-rampant vision
ary mysticism.75 That is not to say that the word mysti
cism5is completely inapplicable to him. Quite the opposite,
I am convinced that it is indispensable to an understanding
of the master. But the mistake must not be made of wanting
to find Meister Eckhart5s philosophy and mysticism neatly
stacked beside each other. The opposite is the case: At the
core of the intellectual problem he [Eckhart] places a mystical
exigency.5576 Even for an advocate of the strictly philosoph
74 K. Flasch, Die Intention Meister Eckharts, in Rottges/ B.
Scheer/J.Simon (eds), Sprache und Begriff. Festschrift fr B. Liebrucks,
Meisenheim a. Glan 1974, pp. 292-318, quotation p. 317. See also by the
same, Kennt die mittelalterliche Philosophie die konstitutive Funktion
des menschlichen Denkens? Eine Untersuchung zu Dietrich von Freiberg,
Kant Studien 63 (1972) 182-206, esp. p. 206. Whether Eckhart was a
mystic or not is still a controversial issue, as is clearly shown by the
articles and discussions in Alois M. Haas, Gottleiden, Gottlieben, see
footnote 1.
75Eckliart, Lateinische Werke II, 109, 10-15. Cp. A.M. Haas, Traum
und Traumvision in^der deutschen Mystik*, in: Gottleiden, Gottlieben,
pp. 109-26; O. Langer, Enteignete Existenz und mystische Erfahrung,
Zu Meister Eckharts Auseinandersetzung mit der Frauenmystik seiner
Zeit*, in: K.O. Seidel (ed.), So predigent eteliche, Beit rge zur deutschen
und niederlndischen Predi gt im Mi tt elal ter, Gppingen 1982, pp. 49-96,
esp. p. 70T.
76uon peut dire que ..., les oppositions qui apparaissent entre le
thomisme et les formulations mtaphysiques de matre Eckhart sont
28 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ical approach it is true that the much-worn name of mysti
cism points to something that is fundamentally correct. In
his philosophical understanding of Christianity, in his critical
amendment of the Neoplatonic metaphysics of the One and
the Nous, Eckhart does not shrink from drawing the con
clusion that whoever thinks the infinite oneness cannot be
thought of outside it.77 Moreover, for Eckhart this oneness
is by no means purely speculative, but can be experienced.
This is something he expresses, partly polemically, partly in
missionary zeal, in his German sermons, albeit in a context
completely alien to that of the history of philosophy. Hence
the influence of the mysticism of the Beguines and the Ger
man convents on him, and its relevance for practical life, must
not be underrated, nor should his cura monialium, which is
well attested in history. If Eckhart can be called a philoso
pher, then primarily in the old monastic sense of the word,
in which the quest for a felicitous life was not divorced from
the vita activa. But then the question must be asked whether
his primary concern was with a philosophical establishment
of the self-constitution of human consciousness,78 or rather
with tracing human consciousness back to its divine origin.
Preaching in Paris on the feast of St. Augustine, Eckhart at
any rate testifies to a profound knowledge of the significance
of the powers of cognition and of the intellect. Endowed with
the gift of Grace, they are able to become sapida scientiat
sapientia, so that man gains a foretaste of divine sweetness
presque toujours dues l insertion, au coeur mme du problme intel
lectuel, dune exigence mystique qui est dun autre ordre. M. de Gandil-
lac, Ma tre Eckhart, Traits et sermons, Paris 1942, p. 14; see also E. zum
Brunn/A. de Libra, Matre Eckhart, Mtaphysique du verbe et thologie
ngat i ve, Paris 1984, p. 26ff.
77Flasch, Die Int ent i on[ note 74], p. 301; B. Mojsisch, Mei st er Eckhart,
Analogie, Uni vozi tt und Einheit, Hamburg 1983.
7*Cp. the tlieses put forward by Flascli [note 74],
i f aas: What is Mysticism?
in extasi mentis,79 The entire ascetic burden of abstraction
including abegescheidenheiV [detachment] is laid on cogni
tion, so that the philosophical process itself becomes the in
strument of union with God.
Viewed historically, the relationship between philosophy
and mysticism has often been a series of misunderstand
ings once the dissociation of theory and practice had be
come an established fact, and it had become wishful think
ing to change it. All the same, there are a few bright spots
where the original unity of both approaches can be glimpsed;
I am thinking of Platos Seventh Epistle, of the Neoplatonists
Plotinus,80 Proclus,81 and Prophyry. I would like to quote a
philosopher who elsewhere expressed no approval of mysti
cism, although he owed much to it: Friedrich Nietzsche. Ac
cording to him, philosophy is informed by an experience epit
omized in the assertion: All is one. This sentence has its
origins in a mystical intuition, [a sentence] we find with all
the philosophers together with recurrent attempts to express
it better and better.82
2. Whereas philosophy can be integrated in mysticism in
terms of its endeavour for an absolute discourse, focussing
on the principia and prima philosophia of everything, poetic
language can be incorporated even more easily, as the mysti
cal discourse aims at mystagogy, a process of communication
79Eckhart, Lateinische Werke V, 94, l l mF . , n. 6. Cp. zum Brunn/de
Libera [note 76], p. 28.
80 J. TrouiUard, La purifi cation plotinienne, Paris 1955; J. TrouiUard,
La procession plot ini enne, Paris 1955; M. de GandiUac, La sagesse de
Pl ot i n, Paris 1966; P. Hodot, Plot in ou si mpl i ci t du regard, Paris 1973.
81W. Beierwaltes, Proklos, Grundzge sei ner Met aphysik, Frankfurt a.
M. 2nd edn. 1979; J. TrouiUard, L Un et Pme selon Procl os, Paris 1972;
J. TrouiUard, La mystagogie de Procl os, Paris 1982.
82Schlechta, Werke III, p. 361. On the tradition see W. Beierwaltes,
Denken des Einenf Studi en zur neuplatonischen Phil osophie und ihrer
Wirkungsgeschichte, Frankfurt a.M. 1984.
30 Mysticism io Shaivism and Christianity
diametrically opposed to the commandment of silence under
lying the original meaning of the word mysticism. But this
is only one aspect enabling comparison between the poetic
and the mystical experience.83 Just as poetry in its purest lo
cutions evinces a tendency to efface its communicative signa
tures and withdraw to the liminal position of a posie pure,
mystological utterances also manifest and articulate a down
ward progress towards the ultimately ineffable; a progress
determined by the acute awareness of their incommensura
bility with what is to be said. It is not necessary to exagger
ate the affinity of both modes of speech into a hierarchical
subordination of poetry to mysticism, as attempted'by Henri
Bremond in his well-known discussion of the Posie pure in
1926. For him, it is an established fact that poetic activity
is a natural and profane replica of mystical activity . . .it is
a diffuse and ponderous replica, full of gaps and blanks, so
that the poet is ultimately only the shadow of a mystic, only
a foundered mystic.84 The ontological status of both modes
of experience is surely different.85 And yet, at the culmination
of his revelations, the mystic knows no other linguistic means
than poetic expression, particularly when the Mihi adhaerere
Deo bonum esJ86 is uttered in the form of eulogy or ecstatic
jubilus,87 Mechthild of Magdeburg provides many examples
of a unique command of the most fervent mystical language
and incorporates all the poetic structures imaginable.
830 n t h e . following discussion see my reflections in: A.M. Haas,
Sermo mysti cus, Studien zu Theologie und Sprache der deutschen Mys
t i k Freiburg i. Ue. 1979, pp. 9ff, 76ff.
mH. Bremond, Mystik und Poesi e, Freiburg i.Br. 1929, p. 213.
85I1. Halbfas, Die Vermittlung mystischer Erfahrung, in: H. Cancik
[note 5], pp. 132-45, esp. p. 135ff.
86Psalm 72 (73), 28. Cp. S.D. Sfriso, Adhaerere Deo. L unione con Dio,
Filologia e st oria di una locuzione 6i6/ica, Brescia 1980; J. et Maritain,
Si t uat i on de la posi e, Paris 2nd edn. 1964, p. 35.
87H. Grundmann, Jubel, in: H. Grundmann, Ausgewhlt e Aufst ze,
Teil 3: Bildung und Sprache, Stuttgart 1978, pp. 130-62.
Haas: What is Mysticism?
An explanation will have to be found for why Christian
mysticism employs both linguistic modes of the unspeakable
and means of effusive expression. With other religions Chris
tianity shares the notion of Gods ineffability, as well as that
of union with Him. This ineffability is the product of religious
reflexion on the Absolute. On the other hand, in Christian
doctrine the ineffable God is Himself Logos, the One who, to
use Eckharts words, has Himself become the word ( se/6er
gewortet).88 Apart from the apophatic forms of expression
and the themes of deprivation and desire accompanying it,
we also encounter in Christianity the main current of cat-
aphatic and symbolical, rhetorical and allegorical modes of
speech.89 Let mention be made only of the erotic imagery of
union that has shocked many prude readers. The accounts
of human experience, such as presented in scripture in their
mystical-allegorical meanings are not mysteries inaccessible
to the mystic, but models encouraging him to speak untram
melled, because these accounts testify to the omnipotence of
God, whose word always antecedes mans.90
As regards the distinction made by Irene Behn91 and Wal
ter Haug92 between the mystical text (=mysticism, i.e. a
88Eckhart, Deutsche Werke I, 66, 3.
89 E. Biser, Theologische Sprachtheorie und Hermeneutik, Munich 1970;
E. Biser, Religiose Sprachbarrieren t Aufbau ei ner Logaporetik,
Munich 1980.
90For a profound vindication of bridal mysticism as a phenomenon
of incarnation see von Balthasar [note 69], p. 46ff.
911. Beim, Spanische Myst i k, Dusseldorf 1957, p. 8, distinguishes be
tween mysticism, i.e. the experience itself, and mystology (or mysto-
graphy), i.e. the reflection on, and speaking or writing about mystical
experience within the framework of specific categories (which may, but
need not necessarily, be based on actual experience) . . . In addition, Behn
discerns the concept of mystagogy, defined as the theoretical and practi
cal guidance towards mystical experience, conducted by those who have
been gratified with it. (von Balthasar [note 30], p. 307).
92See Haugs essay in: K. Ruh, Abendlndische Mystik im Mitt elalter
Stuttgart 1986, p. 494ff. An extensive philosophical basis for Haugs
32 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
verbal structure in which no differentiation seems possible
between the experience itself and concurrent speech voic
ing it), and texts on mysticism (mystology, mystical the
ology), I consider such a division necessary and meaningful
as a method, but would ultimately like to qualify it, as I
suspect that a highly gifted poet might well manage to con
struct a mystical text so that it would be indistinguishable
from genuine mystical ones. On the other hand, Spanish mys
tics have a preference for couching their lyrical verse, often
indiscernible from profane love poetry, in a language rich in
scholastic connotations. In this context the question will have
to be asked as to where, within the linguistic framework, the
authentic mystical experience can be found. The answer is
presumably in a combination of both forms of literary expres
sion [i.e. mysticism as defined above, and mystology/mystical
theology]. Even so, I gladly concede that the endless output
of mystical theologies, particularly by the Carmelites in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,93 is a source of sheer
frustration. But I must qualify this sentiment by saying that
Teresa of Avila did not tire of having her mystical experiences
examined and confirmed by mediocre mystical theologies.94
Irrespective of how systematic thinking may define the
relationship between poetic and mystical speech, either as
an analogous one, according to which poetical speech is on
a level with mystical language in creating linguistic patterns
for human emotions and sensibilities, or as a hierarchical re
analysis may be seen in D. Licciardo, De la analoga en el conoci mient o
de Dios por la experi encia mi st ica} Zurich 1965.
93 Jose de la Cruz, Hi st oria de la Literatura mstica en Espaa, Burgos
1961;4De Contemplatione in schola teresiana, Ephemerides Carmeliticae
13 (1962); Melquades Andres Martin, Los Recogidos, Nueva vi sion de la
m st ica espaola (1500-1700), Madrid 1976.
94 F. de Ros, Un matre de Saint e Thrse: Le pre Franois d Osuna,
Pans 1936; F. de Ros, Un inspirateur de Sai nt e Thrse: Le frre
Bernardi n de Laredo, Paris 1948.
Haas: What is Mysticism? 33
lationship in which the mystical discourse should epitomize
the ultimate fulfilment of poetic expression, because it incor
porates poetrys most profound natural intentions, I think
that in this context we would adhere to the mutual transfer
of linguistic patterns between poetry and mysticism. These
insights entail that philology provided it remain intellectu
ally flexible enough and avoid overly dogmatic philosophical
or doctrinal concepts of mysticism may with certain jus
tification also regard mysticism as the legitimate subject of
its scholarly attention. In my view, philology especially has
the asset of being able to focus on the object of its research
without major ideological bias, i.e. it can focus on its linguis
tic structure and concrete entity. Moreover, the philological
approach to the study of mysticism seems to me to be the
ideal one, not least for enabling a comparative analysis be
tween mystical systems of different religious provenance. This
is not because such a comparison should aim at syncretism,
but quite the opposite, because, from a philological point
of view, the differences between variegated mystical systems
become particularly pronounced as long as the context of lin
guistic tradition is not neglected.
I l l
The question what is mysticism can surely be answered
only after considering, first, mysticisms infinitely varied man
ifestations in the course of history and in different religions,
and, secondly, the perhaps even more variegated interpre
tations with which these manifestations have been regarded
from the most diverse angles.95 In practical terms this means
that the individual historical variants of mysticism should
95For this reason the aspect of religious history seems to me to be vital
in the research of mystical experience. Cp. the early study by F. Heiler,
Di e Bedeutung der Mystik fur die Weltreligionen, Munich 1919. The
differences in mentality between East and West cannot be grasped with-
34 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
have priority in mystical scholarship and that the question as
to the essence of mysticism should, on principle, be answered
only in relation to the relevant mystical system. Nevertheless,
it is possible to discern models of mystical phenomena, i.e. a
kind of typology, whose innate disparities should not disguise
the features they share. Within the Christian tradition I see
this common denominator in the idea that mystical experi
ence seeks its ultimate goal in the act of umo, the cognitive
and loving union of man and God. Yet, the intensity of such
an unio mystica does not provide a yardstick to measure the
degree of perfection attained by the mystic. So the experience
of union also necessitates alienation from God. Para'Soxically,
it involves experience of the Divine by experiencing Divine
Let us endeavour to define mysticism from mans sub
jective perspective and propose the following thesis. Mysti
cal experience is both a growth in knowledge and in love
between man and God. Pivoting on the holy mysteries and
out taking the different basic attitudes to mysticism into account. Cp.
the seminal study by J.A. Cuttat, Asi at i sche Gotthei t Christl icher
Gott, Die Spi ri t ual i t t beider Hemisphren, Einsiedeln n.d.; J.A. Cut
tat, Begegnung der Religionen, Einsiedeln 1956; J. Sudbrack, Heraus
gefordert zur Meditation, Christliche Erfahrung im Gesprch mi t dem
Ost en, Freiburg i.Br. 1977.
" Thi s means that the apophasis relating to God si comprehendis,
non est Deus (Augustine!) also has an impact on man, experienced
as an immense increase in the agony of spiritual suffering. Mystical ex
periences of hell, the resignatio ad infernum, or the gotzvroemdungd*
of Mechthild of Magdeburg belong here. Cp. Sandaeus [note 69], pp.
311-19; J. Sudbrack, Abwesenheit Gottes, Zurich 1971. It is this point
that provokes Protestant criticism of mysticism. The process of mystical
annihilation is exposed (and thus seen relatively) as a human device
striving to possess God in a non-historical way. Cp. R. Bultmann, The
ologische Enzyklopdi e, ed. by E. Jngel/K.W. Mller, Tbingen 1984,
pp. 115-29. Although there is no doubt that some Promethean elements
can be traced in mysticism, they are at the same time eliminated in
mystical experience.
Haas: What is Mysticism?
elusive to expression, it is ultimately inexpressible, encoun
tered by man as a grace-given bestowed union with God and
attained without any conscious effort (even though the ele
ment of distance to God, the regio dissimilitudinis,97 is expe
rienced as a corollary). But this would lead us right into the
field of the different modes of experiencing union. They allow
us to speak about the variant forms of mystical experience.
The two basic tendencies discerned by Christian mysticism
permit us to talk with Heraclitus of ways ascending and
ways descending98, or anabatic and katabatic mysticism.
This differentiation seems fundamental since it reveals all the
problems of a structured progress to perfection. Neoplatonic
Christian mysticism follows both the schemes of ascent and
descent, whereas perhaps even as early as Bernard of Clair-
vaux, or, at the very latest, from the Dominican mysticism
of the fourteenth century onwards, an independent katabatic
mystical tradition has developed, which chooses as metaphors
the valley of humility, or, ultimately, the abyss of the soul, in
stead of the mons contemplationis. It is striking that women
such as Mechthild of Magdeburg display a preference for the
imagery of descent and falling. Here it is a moot point as to
whether katabatic mysticism does not render Gods coming
into the world more appropriately than anabatic mysticism.99
In Christianity (e.g. the different religious attitudes of the
Franciscans and Dominicans), a major role is played by the
distinction between a more speculative and a more affective
97Cf. M. Schmidt, 'Regio dissimil it udini s, Ein Grundbegriff mit
telhochdeutscher Prosa im Lichte seiner lateinischen Bedeutungs
geschichte*, Freiburger Zs. f. Phil. u. Theol. 15 (1968), pp. 63-108.
98See the still appealing and by no means outdated article by K.
Goldammer, Wege aufwrts und Wege abwrts*, Eine heilige Kirche
22 (1940), 25-57.
99Cp. H.U. von Balthasars indefatigable plea [notes 30, 1, 69] for an
incarnational concept of mysticism that does not avoid an incorporation
in physical realities.
mysticism (cherubic and seraphic mysticism).100 Whereas
the speculative tradition is averse to visions and sensational
spiritual phenomena, the affective tradition is more suscep
tible to such praeternatural occurrences (e.g. St. Francis
stigmata).101 The two types can likewise be termed mysti
cism of the Divine Essence ( Wesensmystik?), and mysticism
of Love. Another form of mystical experience surfacing, as
it were, recurrently and independently in all Christian tra
ditions is nuptial mysticism ( 1Brautmystik>), in which man
and God meet on the personal level, as bride and bridegroom.
This erotic mysticism in the shape of the sacred jnarriage
is so precious because it vividly conveys the specifically per
sonal dimension germane to the meeting between God and
36 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
100Cp. Jo. Sclieffler (Angelus Silesius), Der cherubinische Wanders
mann, Critical edition, ed. by L. Gnadinger, Stuttgart 1984.
1010 . Schmucki, De sanct i Francisci Assi si ensi s st i gmat um susceptione,
Collectanea Franciscana 33 (1963), pp. 210-26, 392-422; 34 (1964), pp.
5-62; 241-338; W. Jacobi, Die St i gmat i si ert enf Beit rge zur Psychologie
der Myst i k, Munich 1923; J.M. Hchst, Von Franziskus zu Pat er Pio und
Teresa Neumann, Eine Geschichte der St i gmat isiert en, Stein a. Rhein
3rd edn. 1974; H. Thurston, Die krperlichen Begleiterscheinungen der
Myst i k, Lucerne 1956; J. Lhermitte, Echte und falsche Myst i ker, Lucerne
102 Bri dal myst i ci sm*is characterized not only by including the sphere
of the body, but much more so, by emphasizing the personal dimension.
This explains its unique dignity. Nuptial mysticism has both a social
and an ecclesiastical dimension, not only by virtue of its origin the
mystical experience corresponding to that of the Song of Songs but
also in essence. So an important criterion of the authenticity of Christian
mysticism is not only its external, but also its internal ecclesiastical
attitude: The individual Christian can only be the bride of Christ as
an anima ecclesiastica, as a soul desiring to be nothing but the church,
the community of all Christians. (von Balthasar [note 69], p. 50)
Mysticism of Saiva Siddhnta and an
Insight into its Samnysa Tradition
Swami Nityananda Giri
This presentation is offered invoking the grace of a great sage
of recent times, Sadguru Gnanananda, the guru of Swami Ab-
hishiktananda. Gnanananda lived at the peak of mystic expe
rience, where all schools of thought are reconciled and tran
scended. He seemed to represent to every seeker his own faith.
He was a master of both Saiva Siddhnta and Vedanta lore
and quoted profusely from the texts of both traditions. He
emphasized the importance of eschewing philosophical dis
putation and going beyond discursive thinking.
Swami Abhishiktananda asks him:
What is Swamijis position concerning Reality?
Is it dvaita or advaital When all is said and done,
does any difference remain between God and crea
tures? For instance, is it possible for man to enjoy
God and eternally partake of the joy? Or, is there
finally, beyond everything, only being non-dual
( advaita) and indivisible in unlimited fullness?
What is the use of such a question? replied Sri
Gnanananda quickly. The answer is within you.
Seek it in the depths of your being. Devote your
self to dhydna, meditation beyond all forms, and
the solution will be given to you.1
1Swami Abhishiktananda, Guru and Disci ple, SPCK London, 1974,
pp. 24-25.
38 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
It is an experience which cannot be labelled. Then why are
you so determined at all costs to find a name for that which
is by very definition stripped of every possibility of being
named? Gnanananda exclaims elsewhere.2
Like Sadguru Gnanananda, Bhagavan Sri Ramana also
did not see much difference between Siddhanta and Vedanta.
According to him, Siddhanta is a philosophy of devotion and
grace and at the end of acts of devotion and meditation, one
attains para-bhakti when, having completely overcome the
attachment as mine to all things except God, he revels in
the Bliss of Supreme Love and service of the Lord (irai-pani-
nitrat). Vedanta with its path of knowledge as self-enquiry
leads one to know the truth that the T is not different from
the Lord ( Isvara) and to be free from the feeling of being
the doer ( kartrtva ahamkard). Whatever the means, the de
struction of the sense of T and mine is the goal and as
these are interdependent, the destruction of either of them
causes the destruction of the other, and the state of silence
beyond thought and word is achieved. The end of the paths
of devotion and knowledge is one and the same.3
In India, the various schools of philosophy are derived not
from speculation but from the direct experience of men of
God. The mystic experiences Reality in different ways. Mov
ing in his own unlimited spiritual freedom, the liberated sage
spontaneously records the glimpses of his experience with
out caring for consistency. Thus we have various insights into
Reality depending upon different moods of the mystic. They
are reduced to the philosophical concepts of various schools
of philosophy which suit the different aptitudes of the seekers.
Such concepts in turn together with the psalms and songs of
2Swami Abhishiktananda, Guru and Disciple, SPCK London, 1974,
p. 89.
3 Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, The Collected Works of, Ed. by Arthur
Osborne, Sri Ramanasramam, 1979, pp. 51-52.
Nityananada: Saiva Siddhanta
the Saints, which are spontaneous outpourings bearing the
indelible stamp of their mystic experience and constitute the
source as also the reference, take us back to their ineffable
experience which defies categorization.
All these spiritual exercises consisting of study of scrip
tures of the various traditions and of reflection are at best to
cultivate our minds. The Divine chooses to reveal Itself in Its
own way at Its own time to the person chosen by It, when he
is therefore drawn to It in rapturous love.4
With these words of introduction, it is proposed to make a
few reflections on some concepts of Saiva Siddhanta, particu
larly with reference to the selfs transcendent experience still
retaining the trace of its individuality. Dr Ranade refers to
this as asymptotic approximation to Reality. The hyperbole
never meets the asymptote but goes on approaching it contin
ually and meets it at Infinity. So too the mystics experience
is a continuous, ever-growing, intuitive and super-sensuous
one, almost but not total merging in God.5
Attention is also drawn to the place of samnydsa in this
tradition and how it is the result of the most powerful descent
of grace. Such samnydsa as in the case of Saint Tayumanavar,
leads one beyond all concepts to. the transcendental experi
ence of silence.
aivaitd'philosophy covers the entire spectrum of Hindu
thought. While in all its forms, it deals with three paddrthas
(categories) viz. pati (God), pasu (self or soul) and pdsa
(bonds that fetter the soul), in the reality attributed to thirty
six tattvas (principles) and in the independence assigned to
souls and matter, it varies from the idealistic monism of Kash
mir aivism at one end to the pluralistic (in the sense of non-
absolutistic) realism of Saiva Siddhanta at the other, thus
4 Kat ha Upanisad 11.23.
5R.D. Ranade, The Bhagavad Gtld as a Philosophy of God-realisation,
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1982, pp. 63-64.
40 Mysticism in Shaivism ancl Christianity
providing a wide range of philosophical perspectives. In all
the forms of Saivism we find the insistence on knowledge as
essential to salvation and as the prime cause thereof, a typical
characteristic of the best Hindu thought.6
Saiva Siddhanta conceives Reality in three ultimate irre
ducible modes pati, pasu and pdsa. Though all the three
are equally ultimate and eternal, pasu and pdsa are depen
dent or finite existences and pati is an independent Infinite
Being. Their otherness is only affirmed in an existential sense,
as also is their essential relatedness. Pati (God) is the Infinite
and unlimited, the very Source and Ground of Being. As the
transcendent Reality, pati is called Siva.7
God is the Supreme Reality, at once the Absolute of Phi
losophy and the Supreme Personality, embodying every per
fection, which compels adoration. He is the Supreme Spirit
of Intelligence, Lord Siva. There is none to equal or excel
him. Eight are the attributes of 3iva: Self-existence, purity,
self-knowledge, omniscience, freedom from mala (defilement),
boundless benevolence, omnipotence and Bliss. Siva means
the Auspicious, the Source of all Bliss.
Although pati is the transcendent Spirit, He is at the
same time immanent in the conditions of finite life and exis
tence, constitutive of mans bondage. As immanent in them,
pati is the Redeemer of man from the limiting conditions of
bondage.8 The name /fara indicates the redemptive na
ture of God. He removes all the impurities of the soul and
redeems it from samsara (transmigration).9
6Cp. S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, The Philosophy of Saivismn, The
Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. II. Sri Ramakrislma Mission Institute of
Culture, Calcutta, 1969, p. 387.
7K. Sivaraman, Saivi sm in Philosophical Perspective, Delhi, Motilal
Banarsidass, 1973, pp. 8-9.
8Ibid., pp. 22-23.
9T.M.P. Mahadevan, aThe Idea of God in aiva Si ddhant a?, Sri-Ia-
Sri Arulanandi Sivacharya Swamigal Sivajnana Siddhiyar Endowment
Nityananada: Saiva Siddhanta 41
He is nirguna, beyond prakrti, free from its three gunas of
sattva, rajas and tamas which are finite. He is called turiya
(the fourth), because He is beyond the states of waking,
dream and sleep which are conditions respectively of the three
gunas of prakrti.10 He is at once immanent in the universe and
transcendent to it. He is visvamaya (of the form of the uni
verse). But the universe does not exhaust His nature. He is
also visvddhika (more than the universe). He exceeds the uni
verse, while being its Ground. Hence He cannot be perceived
and comprehended by thought. He has no name and form.
There are no identifying marks setting limits to Him.11
Existing is His own right, He is Sat, Being, He is Cit, the
Supreme Intelligence, Self-luminous and knows all directly.
It is Gods intelligence that enlightens the soul, enables it
to gather knowledge of the world through senses and other
accessories of itself and of the Lord. He is Ananda Himself,
infinitely blissful. The Lord bestows bliss on all.12
His functions are srsti (creation), sthiti (preservation),
samhdra (destruction), tirodhdna (concealment) and anu-
graha (bestowal of grace). Of these, the first four have as
their end the last one. The ultimate aim of the grand Divine
plan of the universe is the liberation of the soul through a
shower of grace. 3iva hides the truth from the soul, projects
the world as the field of its experience in which it evolves
spiritually and finally He emancipates the soul through His
grace. The world process is Sivas lila.13
Lecture 1953, Annamaiai University, 1955, pp. 3-5.
10Cp. T.M.P. Mahadevan, Invi tat ion to Indian Philosophy, Arnold
Heinemann, 1982, pp. 311-13.
11T.M.P. Mahadevan, uThe Idea of God in aiva SiddhntcP, art. cit.,
pp. 3-5.
12R. Ramanujachari, aiva Siddhant a, Tiruppanandal Endowment
Lectures, 1984, Annamaiai University, pp. 10-12.
13T.M.P. Mahadevan, uThe Idea of God in aiva SiddhntcP, art. dt . ,
pp. 3-5.
42 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
The transcendent nature of Siva is emphasized by regard
ing Him as the efficient cause of the world. The threefold
change of origination, sustentation and destruction of the
world has its source in Him. But God Himself does not un
dergo any change. He is the unchanging Ground of all the
The instrumental cause is divas Sakti and the material
cause is mdyd. Mdyd is so called, because as the universe
is revolved (md) into it and is evolved (yd) from it.15 It is
from mdyd that souls are provided with locations ( bhuvana,
worlds), instruments (fanu, bodies and karanas) and objects
of experience ( bhogya). Mdyd is inert and requires the intelli
gent direction and guidance which comes from Siva through
His cit-sakti (power of Consciousness).16
3iva has no forms. God is with form and is formless as
well. He is usually spoken of as in eightfold form ( asta-murti).
Manikkavacagar, for example, sings17:
Earth, water, air, fire, sky, the sun and moon,
the sentient man, these eight forms He pervades.
Tiruvacakam 319
Tiruttonnokkam 5
Trans, by J. H. Nallaswami Pillai
There is no form for Him whose glory is every
Svetdsvatara Upanisad IV. 19
That day when I became Thy slave, I saw not
Thy divine form. Even today, I fail to perceive
Thy blessed form. To those who ask: What is
the form of Thy Lord? What shall I say? What
14 K. Sivaraman, op. cit. pp. 22-23.
15Sivagnana Yogins Mapadi yam, pp. 149-50.
16T.M.P. M ah ad e van, Invi tat ion to Indian Philosophy, op. cit., pp.
Nitya.aa.nada: aiva Siddhnta 43
may be Thy form? Hast thou any?
Karikkal Ammaiyar,
Adbhuta Tiruvantadi, v.61
He is formless and yet has form. To the wise, He
has the form of awareness. He has form.
Umapati Sivacarya, Tiruvarutpayan, v.5
He assumes several forms so that the devotees
may adore Him in them. If it be said Thou art
formless, You have a form; if it be said Thou
hast a form, you are formless. Thou art neither
the formed or the formless.18
Praise be to thee who hast forms and art formless!
Praise be to Thee who hast a thousand names!
Potri Tiruvagal, lines 193, 200
Siva comes as the preceptor {guru) in order to instruct, teach
and give the souls liberating knowledge. Out of his boundless
love, He becomes tangible to terrestrials. Anugraha is His
nature. Love is His being. Tirumular declares that there is no
difference between God and Love.19
Pasu is the self or soul. It is distinct from the body, inde
structible, pervasive, varied, endowed with malas (impurity),
non-inert, enjoyer of the fruits of its own actions, agent, pos
sessor of limited knowledge and having an over-lord. Its des
tiny is to realise pati by conquering pasa.
Pasus are naturally infinite, pervasive and omniscient. Yet
they experience themselves as finite, limited and little know
ing due to pasa or the three bonds nava, karma and maya.
18 R. Ramanujachari, Saiva SiddhSnta, Tiruppanandal Endowment
Lectures, 1984, Annamalai University, pp. 10-12.
19T.M.P. Mahadevan, The Idea of God in aiva SiddhSnta, art. a t . ,
pp. 3-5.
44 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
The Stages of Sadhana
nava is a connate impurity. It is a primordial and positive
conditioning impurity, beginninglessly present in the souls
like verdigris in copper, beginninglessly clouding the soul
and thereby occasioning the phenomenal life of man.20 The
concept of nava in Siddhnta corresponds to that of the
beginningless ignorance or avidy in Vedanta. As it is the
original cause of bondage, it is called mlmala and com
pared to darkness (iru/). Being non-intelligent, it is oper
ated upon by the Lord through His power of obscuration
( tirodhna sakti).n It is due to nava mala that t^e perva
sive (vibhu) soul cognises itself as finite, as if it were atomic
(am*). Conditioned by the consequent limitation of cognitive
and conative powers, the soul is prompted by appetition and
aversion to engage in action. Action brings merit or demerit
which it enjoys in a series of births. This is the second im
purity of karma the bond forged by deeds.22 It is the
realm of moral causation involving the sequence between ac
tion and its result, which sustains the phenomenal existence
through a succession of rebirths.23 Maya mala is the third
impurity which is the material cause of the universe. It pro
vides for the soul means, objects and field of enjoyment, to
work out the result of karma. This is the asuddha or impure
maya which provides the phenomenal realm of existence,
inclusive of subjective and objective spheres - the impure
matter subject to the law of time.24 Suddha or pure maya
helps the onward spiritual progress of the soul endowing it
with a super-phenomenal realm of existence - pure mat
ter, above the scope of asuddha my and karma - which
20 K. Sivaraman, op. cit. pp. 22-23.
21T.M.P. Maliadevan, Invi tat ion to Indian Philosophy, op. cit, pp.
23K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 22-23.
24K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 22-23.
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta 45
while partaking of the nature of phenomena serves to medi
ate between the infinite pati and the finite pasu.25 But the
knowledge and illumination due to the suddha3 mdyd are
limited. Pati (God), pasu (self or soul), pdsa (bond) namely
dnava ma/a, karma, mdyd - suddha and asuddha - are the
three eternals of the Saivaite philosophy.
The various schools of Saivism accept the three cate
gories but there are differences in the conceptions of the na
ture of the relation between (a) pasu and pdsa and (b) pasu
and pati. The spectrum is from radical dualism through quali
fied dualism to non-dualism. The relation between self and
God in the state of liberation is the deciding point.26
In Saiva Siddhanta the gulf between the transcendent and
infinite nature of pati (Siva) and the relative and finite realm
of the phenomena which constitute the pdsa (bond) is over
come by the principle of pasu (self) whose nature as sat-asat
(real-nonreal) permits participation in both the realms. The
nature of the self is to be properly understood as it is rele
vant to the importance given to grace and to the realisation
of the selfs oneness with Siva as an experience. The self cog
nises the phenomena through the accessories of pdsa such as
senses and by completely identifying itself with the object
to be known. Such cognition is pdsa jndna, a demonstrative
knowledge flf knowing perspectively as subject of knowledge
confronting the object.27
Pati (Siva) is impartite and pure consciousness and hence
cannot be knower (pramdtr) like pasu which alone can have
demonstrative knowledge. Pdsa which is only an object (pra-
meya) cannot also be a knower (pramdtr). 3iva and self are
alike in intelligence. But the former is pure consciousness
which is revelatory. The latter, the self, is the subject that
25K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 22-23.
27Ibid., pp. 375-79.
46 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
receives the revelation, because it can know Siva only as and
when shown (upadesin) Self can know only by identifying
itself with the thing to be known by being or becoming the
thing known ( tadbhdva-bhavita). Thus self is only gross con
sciousness (sthula cit); 3iva, on the other hand is subtle con
sciousness ( suksma cit), who knows by Himself and knows all
without experiencing, for this reason that is, without identi-
fication. It is therefore that Siva is revelatory ( upadestr) to
the recipient self ( upadesin). It is like what light is - external
light or light of the soul in relation to sight.28 Self attains to
pati jndna or knowledge of $iva at the self-disclosure of pati,
Siva, the Lord. Thus, the self has the paradoxical'nature of
being neither sat nor asat but being in a sense both, sat-asat.
This notion of self as sat-asat rescues the appearances and
saves phenomena on one hand and also makes the spiritual
realisation of union with Siva possible as an experience.29 It
is because self is a knower (pramatr), that its attainment to
liberating knowledge, pati-jndna is a possibility. The impart
ing of upadesa may vary according to the spiritual maturity
of the soul, which has to be shown so that it may know
that it is true. This is the descent of grace or saktinipata
when iiiva appears in the guise of a preceptor (sadguru) who
vouchsafes to the self this true vision of Himself. The last
feature of the selfs becoming what it experiences, explains
why even after disassociation from pasa, pasutva still lingers
in the form of me and mine against which the only avail
able means of sadhana again consists of conscious meditation
upon identification with pati by Sivoham bhdvand and m-
didhydsana culminating in the recovery of self by integration
with Siva ( siva-yoga) and transcendent Enjoyment of Siva
(siva-bhoga). 30
2*K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 375r-79.
30 Ibid.
Nityananada: Saiva Siddhanta 47
As pointed out earlier, Saiva Siddhanta is in accord with
the Upanishadic dictum Through knowledge only is release.
The phases of jfidna contain the stages of hearing (sravana),
reflection ( manana) and contemplation (nididhydsana). This
is in respect of pasu, pdsa and pati. Emancipating knowledge
or pati-jndna is integral intuition of the truth of existence at
its source, which entails freedom of the self from the finitude,
from the thraldom of bondage which is preoccupation with
the phenomenal existence body, senses, world and worldly
goods. Pasu-jndna encompasses the divide of subject and ob
ject. Its intuition of itself as ever in inseparable union with
/ /
Siva follows Sivas revelation of Himself, when the light of the
Divine rends the veil of obscurity. Thus pati-jndna (that ef
fects dissipation of pdsa (pdsa-ksaya) is non-empirical and in
tuitive and grows into the ineffable sivdnubhava.31 But there
can be no knowledge of the Lord (pati) without the knowl
edge of and insight into the other two, viz. pasu and pdsa.
The three interact to result in the final transcendent experi-
ence of Siva. In the knowledge of each of the three, there are
three progressive stages of:
(a) Rupa which is prima facie definition
( laksana) of things whose purpose is to dif
ferentiate and designate;
(b) Darsana the metaphysical reason and in
sight, self-critical with discrimination between
tlfe real and the appearance, yet, not integral
(c) Suddhi Consummatory knowledge, direct,
immediate and intuitive, undistorted by im
pediments of impurity an awareness above
These three stages of knowledge of the three ultimates, of
31K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 380-81.
MIbid., pp. 371-75.
48 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
pati, pasu and pdsa, together with their culmination in the
recovery of self in the transcendent enjoyment of &va, consti
tute what are known as dasa kdrydni or ten actions or func
tions of spiritual life: tattvarupa, tattvadarsana, tattvasuddhi;
dtmarupa, dtmadarsana and atmasuddhi; siva-rupa and siva-
darsana, siva-yoga and siva-bhoga. They are stages of knowl
edge covering the entire spiritual journey from selfs unques
tioned oneness with tattvas ( tattvarupa) to the all-embracing
experience of the Plenum (siva-bhoga). The first eight of
dasakai'yani constitute the means (sadhana) and the last two
the fruit or result (phala).33 Whilst darsana is illuminative
insight, suddhi is freedom.34 Obviously, there could be no
siva-suddhi, but only siva-yoga, which is integral union with
Tattva-rupa and tattva-darsana go with dtma-rupa.35
From the prima facie understanding of tattvas (tattva-rupa),
self graduates to the discriminative philosophical wisdom
( tattva-darsana) when it realises their character as objective
and mutable ( asat) and non-intelligent (acit).36 This follows
in the wake of dtma-rupa, the perception that self is neither
sat nor asat but what comprehends both as such.
There is a coincidence between the next three of
dasa kdrydni, namely siva-rupa, dtma-darsana and tattva
suddhi?1 Atma-darsana follows in the wake of siva-rupa per
ception of 3iva in the guise of the preceptor ( sadguru), who
vouchsafes the true vision. Also as a corollary to this Siva-
rupa-atma-darsana, there follows tattvasuddhi which means
real freedom from tattvas i.e., freedom from unquestioned
identification with tattvas with the sense of I and mine.
This suddhi or freedom is the consequence of a felt disil
33 K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 371-75.
34Ibid., pp. 380-81.
3Ibid., pp. 375-79.
37Ibid., pp. 396-99.
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta 49
lusionment of their reality through the inculcation of the
With the advent of the preceptor-given knowledge, the
gross manifestation of pdsa in the form of tattvas ceases to
obtrude.39 But the complete dissipation of pdsa (pdsaksaya)
is yet to be attained. Even after tattva-suddhi, the root mala
still remains as is evident from the dogging illusion of T or
selfhood which now after dissociation from the not-self as
sumes prominence. Through tattva-suddhi, one is led beyond
tattvas to self ( atma-darsana)ywhich now appears to be foun
dational. There is no freedom from pasutva till one intuits the
truly foundational jneya Reality. Self emptying (atma-suddhi)
should supervene on gaining insight into selfs reality.40 The
three-fold sadhana for atma-suddhi which goes together with
siva-darsana, comprises of bhdvand, recital of sri
pancaksara and antarydga pujd. In the last of the three, 3iva
is contemplated as dancing in the sanctuary of ones be
ing in the heart lotus in a form made of the five letters of
pancaksara. Thus bhdvand meditation, mantra recita
tion and kriyd action, harnessing mind, feeling and will,
as thought, speech and action towards the same goal, namely
atma-suddhi, prepare it for siva-yoga siva-bhoga.4*
'Sivoham? bhdvand is contemplation of self on its true
identity with pati. It helps it to stand integrated in union
with God, as one with His Being. The contemplation of the
absoluteness of Siva-Sakti and of selfs inconsequential real
ity, which is implied in sri pancaksara recital brings about
total surrender, giving up ones own will. Thus in siva-yoga
(integral union with 3iva), through a union of being, freedom
from lingering effects of mala potent with seeds of duality is
38K. Sivaraman, op. rit., pp. 380-81.
39Ibid., pp. 405-11.
41 Ibid., pp. 399-404.
50 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
achieved, whilst through union of will, freedom from residual
effects of mdytya and karma is attained.42
It is however to be noted that both in atma-darsana,
selfs insight about its reality in contrast with not-self, and in
Sivoham bhdvand (Siva is I) , pasutva still endures although
imperceptibly with seeds of duality.43 The self recovers its ul
timate reality by totally surrendering its egoity through its
encounter with God.44
In siva-rupa, Siva by the application of His kriya-sakti
sets at naught the sum total of stored up karma of the past
(sancita), together with its material locus of the form of ad-
hvan, which house the karma, namely mdytya. This is done
symbolically in the act of nirvdna-diksd by the guru, the
main feature of which is adhva-suddhi. The self freed from
the weight of karma and mdytya is qualified for the dawn of
In siva-darsana by the application of His jndna-sakti,
Siva dispels the prime evil of mala which has been limiting
the selfs potentialities from eternity and reduces to naught
in advance the fresh influx of karma due to selfs present
earthly life, dgdmin.46 That part of karma which has already
begun to bear fruit and has caused the present embodiment,
prdrabdha, is destroyed only by experience.47
In siva-rupa there is freedom from not self (tattva-
suddhi). In siva-darsana is achieved freedom from assertion
of self-being ( atma-suddhi). In siva-yoga is attained freedom
from the root source of me and mine, which outlasts all
efforts of relinquishing self-assertion and persists by the very
4 i K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 405-11.
43 Ibid.
4i Ibid., pp. 382-88.
46Ibid., pp. 405-11.
JVityananada: ^aiva Siddhanta 51
act of discriminating self from not-self, This leads to the free
dom of siva-bhoga.48
It further grows into the Bliss of unitive life, sivatva or
siva-bhoga. In siva-yoga there is only a foretaste of Bliss
( sukhaprabhd), a negative consequence of the dissolution of
pasutva. In siva-bhoga is the positive experience of Supreme
Bliss (parama-stii/ia) of the self-being flooded with *siva-
ananda.49 Siva-yoga is the twilight. iva-bhoga is the dawn.
Siva-yoga marks the fourth or turiya with reference to the
three other states of sakala, kevala and suddha. The siva-
bhoga is turiydtita, beyond the beyond i.e., transcendental.50
The former is a stage of Advaitic relation with Sakti whereas
the latter ( siva-bhoga) is the ensuing Advaitic experience of
sivatva when sakti sinks into Siva.51 Saint Pattinattar exr
pounds it clearly in his definition of nistha as :
The beauteous Kacchi Ekampan affirmed:
One should do away with and run away from
Delusive friends and woman the deathless
Then should one accompany the Mother who is
true Grace,
And then be oned with the Father now totally
oblivious even
Of the Mother who led unto Him. This indeed is
Saint Pattinathar, v.10
This is siva-bhoga which is the transcendent experience. In it
the self has an unbroken and immediate inward self-intuitive
48 K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 405-11.
49Ibid,, pp. 412-16.
51 Ibid., pp. 399-404.
52 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
awareness of unity of being with Siva as jndna; perpetual
dedication towards Siva, the transcendent I in the self, as
kriya; and ecstatic love for the Indwelling Person within its
own personal being, growing from fullness to fullness as icchd.
Thus siva-bhoga is a mystical, face to face experience of
reality in terms of an encounter ever-renewed and eternally
The attainment of sivatva is understood as complete mer
gence of beinj* in isiva, in the idealist school of &aivism known
as Kashmir Saivism. But, in Saiva Siddhanta, it is a real
ization of an identity of an essence in spite of difference in
existence. When the scriptures teach non-duality ( advaita),
they do not mean to deny the existence of the two, but the
duality of the two. They say they are not two and not
there are not two.54 Advaita does not mean non-difference
but only non-separatedness from God. The soul after release
still continues to exist as soul without merging into Siva. The
soul now enjoys its nature which is sivatva or siva-bhoga. The
released soul enjoying the nature of God as its own, delights
in being a devoted servant of God. The soul has this tran-
scendent experience of the Bliss of Siva, when the obscuring
powers of the mala are neutralized and rendered impotent.
Mala continues to exist but without the sting of its veiling
power. The nature of mala in the pdsa and that of pasu as
sat-asat make for selfs transcendent experience in siva-bhoga
in which Siva experiences Himself so that the self may ex
perience Him. This is the feature of the existential root of
>aiva Siddhanta doctrine of the eternity of the three in mukti
A mere righteous life of dharma, of desire-prompted ac
tion and enjoyment with its implication of attachment and
S3K. Sivaraman, op. cit., pp. 412-18.
MS.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, op. cit., pp. 295-96.
s s Ibid., pp. 412-18.
Nityananada: Saiva Siddhanta 53
passions and of the egocentrism implicit in them does not
bring about by its own momentum the development of the
spiritual qualities essential for jfidna, such as equanimity of
mind and surrender to God. Performance of daily, special
and optional duties make for a high level in the life of ac
tion, but it still comes within pasu-punya, or merit which
is also a bondage, though with golden fetters. On the other
hand^ action consecrated totally to Siva is siva-punya. Even
worldly deeds can be in this manner transmuted into siva-
punya. Thus even in the very midst of the flux of karmic life,
of action and reward, is to be found the clue for eventually
transcending the natural law of deed and consequence. The
tirodhdna sakti of the Lord not only provides for the soul a
life of action with ego-drive which makes for bondage, but
also leads to its release through a spiritual life of siva-punya.
Above the vocation of duty comes that of doing service to
Siva and the fourfold scheme of siva-dharma of carya, kriyd,
yoga and jfidna is the sadhana for the progressive un-doing
of the sense of egoism by conscious surrender of all actions to
the Lord.56
Carya is the first stage of external worship of images and
rituals and service such as cleaning the temple and gather
ing of flowers etc. God here assumes a grossly visible form
( sakala). The action resembles those of a devoted servant to
the master. It is ddsa-mdrga leading to sdlokya, residence in
the realm of God. The next stage is kriyd where the modes of
worship are inward as well as outward as in recitals of prayers,
meditation and fire rites. God is in visible-cum-non-visible
form ( sakala-niskala) and the devotion here is akin to that
of a son to his father. The son serves the father overtly and
spontaneously and with inward allegiance. This is satputra-
mdrga and the objective is sdmxpya or nearness to God. The
third discipline is yoga which means union and here signifies
58S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, op. cit., pp. 389-94.
54 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
contemplation and inner worship. In this stage God is non-
visible ( niskala) and the path is sakh-mrga in which the
sdhaka.is the friend of God. It leads to sarupya, gaining
the form of God.57
These three stages of sdhana imply progressive revela
tion of God ( tirodhna sakti) by a steady undoing of the veil
ing powers of mala which hides selfs vision of the Real. The
self is now led to the final stage of jna. It is the sanmarga
(the Right Path) because it takes the soul straight to sat
which is God. Devotion in this stage is typified in the self-
surrendering love between a lover and his beloved. The fruit
is the ultimate human good, sayujya or union with God.58
The path of jna with hearing (srauana), reflection (man
ara) and contemplation (nididhyasana) and the culminating
experience (nisthor samdhi) has been detailed earlier, with
its further classification into desakryas culminating in siva-
yoga and siva-bhoga.
By long experience of the cycle of birth and death, the soul
learns to equate empirical good and evil, realizing the one as
fleeting and intrinsically worthless as the other and becomes
indifferent to the acquisition of good karma as well as bad.59
It thus attains a tranquil frame of mind disinclined alike to
wards so-called merit and demerit. This is karma samya. The
stage is now set for the release of the soul. Such a person is
now inimical to the active operation of the veiling power of
mala. The hold of mala reflected in the souls inveterate im
pulse for exteriorisation and entanglement in the phenomena
has now been slackened.60 With the souls disillusionment
about world experience, uthe mala that so long obscured and
hindered is now ripe and fit for the Divine surgeons knife.61
57S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, op. cit., pp. 389-94.
59Ibid., pp. 295-96.
61 Ibid.
Nitya.na.nada: aiva Siddhanta 55
The grace that was operating by veiling, as it were, with the
veil of mala till now (namely tirodhana sakti) has now become
transfigured into the grace that reveals ( anugraha sakti). The
soul now seeks the omniscience which is its own nature and
birth-right. This is the on-set of Divine grace, saktinipdta.62
It is quick or slow depending upon the capacities and the
sadhana of the soul. When the grace has fully set in, the Lord
reveals Himself and instructs the soul. To the vijndndkalas
(with anava mala only), He reveals Himself as their own In
ner Light; to the pralaydkalas (with anava and mdyd malas)
in a divine supernatural form; and to the sakalas (with all the
three malas of anava, karma and mdyd) as a preceptor ap
parently like one among themselves and gives them the diksa
or initiation.63
Diksa Initiation
Diksa is the divine act of initiation. The word implies a gift
( ddna) and a loss (ksaya) gift of knowledge and loss of bond
of mala. It secures the destruction of pdsa and attainment
of mukti which is union with Siva. It is a manifestation of
/ /
Sakti, the power of Siva ( sivasya vydpakdtmaka saktih). It
enables the sddhaka with the least powerful descent of grace
to discharge his daily, special and optional duties enjoined in
the Agama^tnd hear the revealed Word. To the aspirant with
most powerful descent of grace, it is the immediate means of
moksa qualifying him for directly receiving jndna.64
Of the three well-known initiations, samaya diksa con
fers fitness to enter a life of ritual ( saivdcdra or cart/a); and
visesa diksa to practise kriyd and yoga. The third initiation,
nirvana diksa, qualifies one for directly receiving jndna and
is therefore considered the immediate means of moksa.65
62S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, op. cit., pp. 395-96.
4Ibid.l pp. 382-88.
56 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
The various commentators on the concerned scriptural
texts differ in their classification of types of diksas. Diksd
when it involves homa or fire rites is called hautn or angt
(with parts). When homa is done actually it is known as kriyd
hautn. The other in which the homa is performed mentally by
bhdvand it is jfidna hautn. In it the preceptor mentally enters
the body of the disciple, considers his ndbhi-sthdna (navel) as
the kunda (pit for fireplace) containing sivdgni and performs
by bhdvand the homa to purify the six adhvas.
Hautn diksd is unique and includes other diksas as its
parts. Such ancillary diksas are of six kinds: nayana (look);
sparsa (touch); vdcaka (words, i.e. initiation into the pancd-
ksara); manasika (mental); sdstra (scriptural study of 6aiva-
gamas and Saiva Siddhanta); and yoga (practice of niradhara
siva-yoga). These subsidiary initiations only without the fire
rites of hautri will constitute partial initiation or anga diksd.
Nayana diksa is of three kinds:
(i) Srngara in which the preceptor is like one
who had achieved identity with Garuda by yo-
gic powers, as a result of chanting the mantra,
and treats a person bitten by snake by looking
at him and drawing off the poison, bathing him
in amrtakald by identification with the moon, to
remove the fatigue.
(ii) Nigraha-avalokana in which the guru de
stroys the disciples identification with pasa by
his gaze through which his own consciousness is
merged with that of the disciple.
(iii) Anugraha-avalokana in which the precep
tors look is that of grace for the spiritual well
being of the recipient soul.66
66V.A. Devasenapathi, aiva Si ddhant a, University of Madras, 1974,
pp. 238-41.
Nitya.na.nada: aiva Siddhanta 57
In sparsa, diks, the preceptor performs certain rites by touch
to remove the pupils bondage and to make him like iva, just
as base metals are transmuted into gold by the proverbial
touch of the philosophers stone.
In manasa diksa, the guru, starting from his own outgoing
breath ( recaka) and through the incoming breath (puraka) of
the disciple and his susumn ndi, reaches his heart centre
and raises his awareness to the jngni (fire of knowledge)
in his dvdanta (twelfth abode) in the head. The preceptor
contemplates in his own heart on the disciples consciousness
being pervaded by that of Siva, like salt being dissolved in
water, and reinstates it in the kundali-sthna of his body.67
Those who are eligible and are able to perform nitya,
naimittika and kamya karma daily, special and optional rites,
are initiated to them by sdhikra diksa. Others are given
nirdhikra diksa.
When the mantra includes a bijaksara, it is sabija diksa;
otherwise it is nirbija.
Samaya and visesa dikss are both nirdhikra and
In diks, a spiritual purification is achieved, issuing in
the dawn of knowledge. The main feature of nirvna diks
is adhva-suddhi. In it, the adhvan representing the mantra,
pada, varna, bhuvana, tattva and kal are purified by the
progressive merging of the gross into the next less gross by
kriy-sakti. Then the stored up or sacita karma together
with its material locus ( myiya) is set at naught and the soul
is freed from their burden. Then he is initiated into mukti
packsara and jna pada of Saiva gamas.
When the nirvna diks results in immediate release, it is
called sadyo-nirvna. In the asadyo nirvna diks, the release
comes after death.
When sabija nirvna diks is given to householders, it
67Sivagnana Yogins Mapadiyam, Sirappuppayiram, pp. 18-27.
58 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
is called lokadharmint or bhautika. The same when given to
those who are leading a life of celibacy and renunciation is
called sivadharmini or naisthika when the tuft of hair is re
moved (the head is tonsured). This is an immediate prelude
to samnydsa diksa.
Saiva Siddhanta, like Advaita Vedanta, holds that the path
of knowledge is sadhana par excellence and is the true path
( sanmdrga) and karma, diksa, bhakti etc., which are indeed
well recognized spiritual disciplines are the other sadhanas
in the secondary sense which lead to jndna.es Yet In Saiva
Siddhanta we do not find the same affirmation as in Sankara
Advaita that karma is totally incompatible with knowledge
and there should be total renunciation or samnydsa of all
karma as a prelude to jndna-nisthd. We do not find here the
insistence that one should take to sravana or hearing only
after being initiated into samnydsa. This can be well under
stood, as Saiva Siddhanta is a theistic school where worship of
God finds an important place till the end of sadhana and the
liberated soul also continues to be a devoted servant of God.
Hence updsand with bhdvand of LSivoham and recitation of
mukti pancdksara are prescribed in the life of a samnydsin
also. This worship is however internal. This pujd is jndna
pujd and antarydga pujd (internal worship). Although God is
the wholly other, He is yet one with the soul at the same
time and we can worship Him in the sanctum of the heart.69
Yet, we find the phenomenon of samnydsa well pro-
* *
nounced in the Saiva Siddhanta tradition also, as it is it
self the fundamental characteristic of the Hindu approach to
the Divine Reality. As the means to the ultimate value to
be cherished in human life or parama purusdrtha, which is
6Sivajnana Yogins Mapadiyam, Sirappuppayiram, pp. 380-81.
69Ibid., pp. 399-404.
Nityananada: aiva Siddhaata 59
moksa, samnyasa finds the most respected place in the four
fold scheme of life or asrama. It is called fourth in relation to
the earlier three dsramas (stations of life) of student, house
holder and forest-dweller. Although samnyasa may seem to
be the culmination of the first three, it is still a total break
from them and complete transformation, as a ball turned in
side out indeed a rebirth in spirit, as the initiation itself
implies when the sadhaka takes the diksa clad in space as
though born anew and assumes a new name which indicates
total absorption in the Divine. It takes him beyond all dhar-
mas, ethical and religious duties. He has now conquered the
natural impulse of externalization and entanglement in phe
nomena. He has declared the fundamental necessity of leav
ing the world and all the creatures in embarking on a total
interior life. He has realized the transitoriness of all things fi
nite and for him even the celestial worlds are included among
the relative phenomena which are fleeting in nature. He has
also understood in the depth of his heart, the truth of the
Upanisadic dictum By renunciation, thou shalt enjoy!70 We
can enjoy true liberty only in respect of all such things as we
neither possess nor desire. It is the ascent of Mount Carmel:71
That thou mayest have pleasure in everything,
seek pleasure in nothing.
That thou mayest know everything, seek to know
That thou mayest possess all things, seek to pos
sess nothing.
In detachment, he finds quiet and repose. He covets nothing.
Nothing wearies him by elation and nothing oppresses him
70 Ii avasya Upanisad, Mantra 1.
71 John of the Cross.
60 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
by dejection because he stands in the centre of his own
The poverty of a monk is true self-stripping and casting
off of all wealth, material and immaterial. It is a complete
detachment from all finite things. Chastity is the extreme
and limpid purity of the soul, cleansed from all personal de
sire and virgin to all but God. Obedience is the abnegation
of self-hood and mortification of the will which result in a
complete self-abandonment, a holy indifference to the acci
dents of life.73 These are karma sdmya and malaparipdka
(ripening of the mala) which bring with them the descent of
grace, saktinipata. Samnydsa is a departure from the worldly
round, to delight in solitude, steeped in the thought of God
and living in the Eternal Now, dead to the past, indifferent to
the present and least of all worried about the future. The ir-
resistable inner urge, the inner awakening frees the samnydsT
from all duties. Samnydsa overtakes him and it is immate
rial whether he has been given the formal external diksd or
not, or whether he carries the insignia or not. We find in the
lives of saints such a sudden and total transformation on the
descent of grace.
Besides such spiritual geniuses, Saiva Siddhanta provides
for initiation into samnydsa for qualified aspirants. It is the
commencement of preparation for a mystic life which is also
the result of descent of grace although of lesser intensity. The
guru puts the disciple through a very tough period of trial
and probation and after finding him fit for samnydsa confers
it on him at an appropriate time chosen intuitively with the
guidance of the Divine grace. In Hinduism, such conferment
of samnydsa is done with great care as it is the path of no
return and it is only when there is a break of karma, that one
72Evelyn Underhill, Myst i ci sm, E.P. Dutton Co., Paperback edn.
1961, pp. 205-206.
Nitya.nana.da: aiva Siddhanta 61
receives such samnydsa diksa.
The initiation into samnydsa follows nirvana diksa which
is jndna diksa. Its aim is attainment of paramoksa which is be
yond the other lower levels of mukti such as sdlokya} sdmtpya
and sdrupya which are attained through caryd, kriyd and yoga
respectively. The discrimination between these lower levels of
mukti and the higher paramukti and hankering after the latter
are themselves indicative of a very highly spiritually advanced
nature in the aspirant receiving samnydsa diksa.
The Agamas speak of three types of samnydsins: tapasm,
vividisu and vidvdn74.
Tapasvi is devoted to his own tapas or contemplation of
iva. He has nothing to study, no scriptures to hear and re
solve to fulfil. He does not let other people know his depth
of knowledge. Nor does he gather disciples. He may not even
carry danda or kamandalu or for that matter any other in
signia and may not even reveal his knowledge of languages.
Seeking solitude and avoiding the company of men, he may be
staying in a forest or spending his time underneath a tree.75
Vividisu is one who wants to know and has been initi
ated into samnydsa. His fourfold activities are study, teach
ing, hearing of scriptures and contemplation of Siva.76
Vidvdn is one who has been specially anointed as dcdrya
and is qualified to initiate others. He is well qualified with
knowledge and experience for that purpose.77
Sivagra Yogin, a famous saintly commentator, in his book
Saiva Samnydsa Paddhati especially clarifies that apart from
the first three castes, those belonging to the fourth are also
eligible for initiation into Samnydsa. The initiation of the
former is the same as in Vaidika tradition with the prelim
74 3iv&gra Yogins aiva SamnySsa Paddhati.
62 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
inaries of jtva srdddha, tonsure etc. and the pronouncement
or uccdrana of praisa mantra which is renunciation of all the
three worlds of bhiih, bhuvah and suvah. In the case of the
fourth caste, instead of praisa mantra, the initiate repeats
five times in increasingly louder voice the sloka in which
he declares his renunciation of all, father, mother, son, wife
and everything, except Siva alone. Sivagra Yogins manual
on samnyasa gives complete details of the rituals connected
with initiation, bhiks, sravanaetc. After giving a detailed ac
count of samaya, visesa and nirvana dksds} samnyasa diksd
is described as given to those leading a celibate life and al
ready initiated into nirvana dks as a means of attaining
The famous sage Tirumulars Tirumandiramy which is
the tenth book in Saivaite canonical literature, devotes a
section to renunciation. He says that samnyasa is the re
sult of saktinipdta on the souls attainment of karma sdmya
and mala-paripdka. To such a samnydsin, iva reveals Him
self, and the Lord is his sole friend and refuge. Tirumular
stresses the necessity for the samnydsin to strictly abide by
the monastic code and be eternally vigilant and extremely
persevering, in accordance with the instructions of his guru.
The reference seems to be both to the enlightened ones and
also to those on the path amongst samnydsins. Only those
who have completely conquered vdsand mala and the chal
lenge of phenomena and have overcome ignorance and tran
scended time, attain to union with iva. Samnyasa is the
total conquest of senses and channelizing of all the energies
Godward. He concludes the section with a reference to the
awakening of kundalinx and rising to sahasrdra and the be
atific vision of parasiva.
Saint Tiruvalluvar in his Tirukkural praises the greatness
of renunciates in ten couplets. To the minds of Saivites, Saint
Pattinathar symbolizes the highest watermark of vairdgya.
Nityananada: aiva Siddhnta 63
His Psalms on the transitory nature of all human relation
ships and worldly goods are most popular and inspiring.
Neither place nor kin will last;
Neither wives nor hard-earned name will last;
Neither children nor honours will last;
So too, wealth will not;
None in this world will last; Your feet alone
Are everlasting, Oh Kacchi Ekampa!
St. Pattinathar, v.13,
His definition of samnydsa is one of the most exacting de
scriptions to which every mumuksu should aspire to live up
The renouncer of domestic life is million times
Greater than he who is poised in household
Than even he, is the one who is a renunciate at
Ten million times greater.
How can I articulate, 0 Kacchi Ekampa, the glory
Of him who by his study and knowledge had
"^quelled all adharma
And lives dead to the world, rid of twofold karma
and vasandsl
St. Pattinathar, v. l ,
He equates the true samnysin to a j nn and describes him
in the following words:
78St. Pattinathar, Eng. trans. by T. N. Ramachandran, International
Institute of aiva Siddhnta Research, 1990, pp. 17-21, 58-59.
79 Ibid.
64 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
They roam (in forbidden places) like a ghoul,
Lie like a carcass, like a dog eat alms when given
And wander like a fox anywhere.
They deem good women as mother and speak
to all,
As they would to their kin, with humility
And are like babes.
Behold them, the true and clarified jnanisl
St. Pattinathar, v.35,
Podhu (General)80
His description of the freedom in which the samnydsin moves
about is equally inspiring. One is reminded of the Buddhistic
texts in which the monk is compared to the rhinoceros.
An extremely interesting and famous sadhana manual is
Ozhivil Odukkam by Sirkazhi Kannudaiya Vallal. The theme
of the book is obvious from the title itself, which means qui-
etitude in retirement. One full chapter is devoted to vairdgya
and another to samnydsa. He says that pure samnydsa is
a stage of atma-suddhi attained through dtma-darsana and
dtma-rupa. Samnydsa is the result of saktinipata. He partic
ularly emphasizes the need for external samnydsa. He also
holds that the external and internal aspects of sannyasa mu
tually supplement each other.
Silence: Beyond Duality and Non-duality
Saint Tayumanavar lived in Tamil Nadu about two hundred
years ago. His Psalms have a rare metrical beauty and melody
and bear the unmistakable stamp of his direct experience of
God. The mystic poets spiritual experience hinges on the
One Word spoken to him in secret by his guru whom he
calls lmauna guru1 or the silent teacher or, the teacher of
*St. Pattinathar, op cit, pp. 17-21, 58-59.
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta 65
Silence. It is the injunction kBe stiff. Thus he bade him
to be still in a state of selflessness, Tayumanavar says: He
with one word with grace prevenient, made me his own and
made me live by love. By perseverence in this way of Silence
and with total surrender to God and guru implied in the one
Word, he attained to the bliss of union with God.
There is an apparent difference between Vedanta and
$aiva Siddhanta. In the former, the soul, being non-different
from God in its essential nature, merges with Him. In the
latter, the soul is distinct, eternal in its nature with a mala
or impurity of dnava. Hence after union with God, the soul
still retains its individuality with the veiling power of dnava
neutralized. Thus, the soul has an experience of its union
with God Siva and His transcendental Bliss. Tayumanavar in
his Psalms refers to Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasa\ an eclec
tic harmonizing of the two. He speaks of the godly samarasa
which consists in an affirmation of neither oneness or twoness
in the great silence. These words remind us of a line in a mi
nor work ( Prakarana Grantha) of Sankara, Praudhdnubhuti
(the Great Experience): In the samarasa devoid of dual
ity and non-duality, silence is best accepted.81 Samarasa
means reconciliation or harmony. By sama is also meant
Brahman and by rasa the Impartite Awareness. It is to be
clearly understood that this Vedanta Siddhanta Samarasa is
not yet another doctrine of philosophy. Neither is it a mere
academic acquiescence or syncretism. Tayumanavar calls it
Mauna samarasa which is above all creeds. It is the highest
experience of mystic Silence, which is beyond all mentation.
It is the final leap at the culmination of incessant sddhana or
spiritual endeavour and total renunciation (samnydsa), in a
tradition which leads beyond itself in the experience of the
81 Dvai t a-advait a-vi varji te samarase maunam param sammat am.
82T. Isaac Tambyah, Psalms of a aiva Saint, Asian Educational Ser-
66 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Elsewhere Tayumanavar identifies Vedanta Siddhdnta Sa-
marasa as total and complete surrender. He says: Always,
my deeds are Your deeds. I am non-different from you, as
my being as I cannot be apart or without you. The nature
(svabhdva) of Vedanta Siddhdnta Samarasa is just this.83
I may conclude with a few readings from psalms of Tayu
manavar rendered as free translations into English:
On the impermanence of worldly goods and relationships:
Father, mother, wife, child, kinsmen, all these are
but people gathered at a fair of this there is
no doubt. Palaces, armies of cavalry, infantry,ele
phants and chariots, all this pomp and splendour,
are just a jugglers show. This body, full of filth,
is further afflicted by the parasites of deceit, envy
and miserliness by devastating the mind. Why
then is it that I have not cultivated desireless-
ness and a conviction that everyday that passes is
equal, but continue to be caught up in the swirling
vortex of the turbulent mind, unmindful of the
veritable flood of your grace that is waiting to
cleanse and devour me?
Oh Lord, who art enthroned in my heart as pure
consciousness (which knows no dawn or setting)
and as plenum of existence (sat), hard to seek and
intuit! Oh Glory of Light and Bliss!
Tejomayanandam 3
He hails God as Turiya, the Great Silence:
Countless are the lands of my birth, countless
my names assumed, countless the kinsmen, count
less the bodies I have borne as the fruits of my
vices, 1985, pp. 107-13.
a3T. Isaac Tambyah, op. cit., pp. 107-13.
deeds, countless the actions performed, countless
the thoughts, countless the fame and prosper
ity enjoyed, countless too the heaven and hell I
have passed through, countless are the good gods,
countless the differing religious creeds where
fore, realizing by the jndna cit sakti (energy of
consciousness of awareness), I bow in obeisance
to God, who like the myriad clouds together,
pours the rain of ineffable Bliss, filling the eyes
of the beloved ones and the skies. To the form
of turfya, the Great Silence, the treasure par ex
cellence, called by the Vedas by countless names
and described by them in countless ways, to this
great Being, which is jndna, the Awareness and
ananda, the unsurpassed and Infinite Bliss I
offer my obeisance!
Para Siva Vanakkam 2
That which is the limitless expanse; the source of
the five elements; where prevails the Great Silence
that speaks not; that which is the Transcendent
Bliss beyond the reach of the mind; that which is
revealed by the Grace of the jnana guru; which
draws to Itself and swallows the devoted; and,
that, *when it blends with all things (and bears
names and forms), which is difficult to discern
on That we meditate!
Porul Vanakkam 3
Away with impure desire! Seek moksa!
When all thoughts subside in the great stillness,
it is called laham\ This state of mindlessness is
grace ( arul). In that interiority of nisthd, abides
grace. As the finitude of the self is transcended,
the state of grace emerges of itself. That is oneness
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta
with Bliss. (The soul in that state becomes one
with Siva, Tat ) There is nothing beyond. They
alone who have attained to this beatific state ob
tain the final release from rebirth. All other de
sires, as for wife, children and kinsmen, constitute
the impure vdsands (latent mental impressions).
Therefore stamp out desires with the help of
(guru's upadesa of) the one Word.
Ninaivu Onru 1
Silence, the samarasa (harmony) of Vedanta
and Siddhdnta:
It was the fullness of Thy grace that drew me
to abide in that state of mind which is the Wit
ness, accepting all that happened to me and all
that did not befall me; that gave me the intuition
to grasp clearly the tradition of samarasa (har
mony) of Vedanta and Siddhanta; that led me on
the path of knowledge which shows the falseness
of the body which is not lasting; and to the re
alization that attainment of Eternal Bliss is the
final Liberation; and endowed me with an inner
love that runs in profusion like pellucid water.
If you deign to save me who have none else to
protect me, I pray that you graciously grant me
an unceasing love of the Transcendental Silence,
beyond the ken of all the worlds!
0 My Lord! Wherever I turn and look, I only see
an all-embracing unbroken, full and all-pervading
Bliss that is your form!
Paripurndndam 8
The Vedasf Agamas, Puranas, Itihdsas and all
else mainly proclaim in detail the paths of advaita
(non-duality) and dvaita (duality). The valuable
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
and commendable dvaita (dual) is verily the foun-
tainhead of the advaita (non-dual) Awareness.
This is also in accordance with reason (inference),
experience and scriptures and is acceptable to
the protagonists of both the systems. Therefore, I
have no need any more of the fourfold sddhana of
caryd and the rest. I become that which I medi
tate on. Therefore, if I meditate on you as my own
Self, I shall intuit the non-dual Reality. When you
are the Gracious Father who comes to each aspi
rant in the manner of his seeking, what then is
my want?
0 My Lord who art the Life of all lives, the sum-
mum bonum both here and beyond and the all-
pervading Reality!
Engum Nirainda Porul 3
The Vedas declare that God and the soul are in
essence the same both being in the nature of Con
sciousness. Phenomenally, they appear as dual en
tities. In the state of nisthd or samddhi, which the
Saivdgamas speak about, they are non-dual.
Udal Poyyuravu 16
Oh! The final repository of Siddhanta! 0
Daksinmrti of Siragiri! The Silent one, that
taught me that beyond union and separation, be
yond the pairs of opposites, beyond evolution and
involution, beyond the gunas of prakrti, beyond
death and birth, beyond the fixed symbol, beyond
impurity, beyond seeking, beyond the spatial di
rections of above, below, middle or beside; be
yond bindu, beyond ndda and beyond the five-fold
differentiation of elements; beyond the empirical
knowledge of the knower; beyond sorrow; beyond
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta
70 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
one (non-duality) and two (duality); beyond the
word and beyond the mind immersed in the
Ocean of Infinite Bliss is that effortless transcen
dental Awareness, beyond ones seeking! You gra
ciously blest me with the subtlest grace and the
love of a mother and place both your feet on my
You taught me that the objectless Awareness
(or nirvikalpa samadhi) is the Eternal Tradition;
without mentation or chant of mantra, without
saying that in the state of Liberation there is one
or two, without imagining it as light or space or
form or nada that is sound, seeing without seeing
is the spiritual culture, which yields the great
est Experience, beyond any sadhand. Oh Blessed
One! Grant that I may intuit That which you have
imparted to me and let me be in the holy com
pany of your illumined devotees!
Chinmayananda Guru 8, 9
In the Hindu tradition, as also in the Christian tradition, the
yearning soul is likened to a bride who rejoices in the Lord,
her beloved. In the ballad of spiritual experience called by him
as A Revel In Bliss ( Ananda Kalippu), Saint Tayumanavar
in verses of exquisite beauty and sublimest feeling of love,
narrates his own mystic union with God. A few verses are
rendered in free English translation:
He who is the Uncreated and Eternal,
Light in me luminous, Awareness and Bliss,
He shone as the silent Teacher, sister,
spoke the unspoken Word in Chinmudra.
/ / /
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Sever all attachments within bade He
Cling but to me And Oh! Sister!
Nityananada: aiva Siddhanta
I gazed unswerving
At the Source within. How shall I describe
that Experience?
Knowledge unmediated, imparted He to me.
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Manifest and Unmanifest, hitherto cognized
That your mind perceived, all of them, negate
Said my Lord, sister. Marvel at
His felicity in making me His Self.
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Love onto those who love Him, the true One,
My silent Lord, all Bliss and grace incarnate,
Placed His holy feet on my head. Lo! Sister
The mind was dead, I had vision of the Self.
0 0 0
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
See God in all with the eyes of grace, said He
Understanding it not, I saw many with senses and
And darkness was all I beheld. Why was it so,
The Seer in me I had failed to see.
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Lest Ldeem Him from me separate
Without duality, be with a still mind
Blest was I with this only instruction, sister,
Oh! How can words express the Bliss it led me to?
0 0 0
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Realizing the state of Bliss of 3iva,
Seeking the Infinite Expanse of Being, casting off
The darkness of Ignorance, sister, I saw nothing
But the Lords Ciddkdsa, full of splendour.
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
There is the birth and beginning of thought;
72 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
In Him it dies to be reborn but purer;
Where all the states exist, yea, there I am,
The Seer not seeing a second, there I stand.
Sankara Sankara Sambhu...
Is there any here and there ? When one sees
That Effulgence of Impartite Sat Cit Ananda
Filling and pervading all, the Transcendent Real,
Can.we postulate of Him One or Two?
/ / /
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
4Yea and 4Nay contrasts do they exist
Oh! Thou seeker of Bliss! stand still and see
The way of knowing the One not the awarer
but Awareness be.
The goal of the Vedas, sister, He teacheth me!
/ / /
Sankara Sankara Sambhu.. .
Saint Tayumanavar, Ananda Kalippu,
vs. 1, 3, 8, 10, 13-15, 20, 21, 30.84
84 Based on the English translation of Isaac Tambayah, Psalms of a
ai va Sai nt , Asian Educational Services, 1985, pp. 107-13.
Raimon Panikkar
rabbi. . .
pou meneis,
erchesthe kai opsesthe
Rabbi . . .
ubi manes? . . .
Venite et videbitis
Master . . .
Where do you stay? . . .
Come and see.
Jn 1.38-39
That which was since the Beginning,
which has been heard by us,
which has been seen with our eyes,
which has been looked upon
and touched by our hands:
The Word of Life.
And Life has been manifested,
and we have seen her
and bear witness to her
and announce her to you:
Eternal Life,
which was with the Father
and has been manifested.
I. Jn 1.1-2
74 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
1. The Occasion
In the preparation for this seminar on Saiva and Christian
mysticism I noticed with astonishment that among the many
topics on Christian mysticism the most central paper was
lacking: the mysticism of Jesus Christ. Two reasons appeared
to me to explain this absence. The one, rather positive; the
other somewhat negative.
The positive reason was the parallelism and regime of
equality we wanted to maintain. Christianity and Saivism are
two powerful and ancient traditions. We should treat them on
an exactly equal footing, avoiding any kind of bias 1n favour
of either tradition. It would be awkward, to say the least, to
include a paper on the mysticism of Lord iva in person,
as it were. We were directing our attention to the experiences
of his disciples.
Similarly, we were focussing our attention also on the mys
ticism of the disciples of Lord Jesus Christ. But whereas the
attempt to speak of the self-consciousness of Siva makes little
sense, the attempt to describe the self-consciousness of Jesus,
difficult as it may be, is not altogether out of the question.
We perceive here immediately the need to establish com
parisons on a double basis. All too often comparisons have
been carried on from one single perspective. The historical
aspect of Siva is irrelevant; not so that of Jesus. 3iva is nei
ther an avatdra, nor an incarnation. We are able to speak of
a 3aiva mysticism without imposing on Lord Siva our ideas
about mysticism. Saiva mysticism is the mystical vision that
6aiva believers have had about reality in and through what
they believe is Sivas grace or illumination. Christian mys
ticism could be said to be something similar. And, in fact,
most studies on Christian mysticism take this path. But there
can be no doubt that Christian mysticism is directly or in
directly embedded in the personal experience of Christ, both
as an objective and a subjective genitive. The homeomorphic
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
/ /
equivalent of Christ here is not Siva but his Sakti.
The negative reason for the absence of such studies may
lie in the mostly unconscious Christian prejudice that Jesus
Christ is above all others and beyond any comparison, so we
do better to leave him out of Comparative Mysticism. We
shall know the Master in and through his followers. This is
fair enough within the Christian tradition, but our seminar
was not a specifically Christian one and we could not a priori
avoid treating Jesus as, say, Abhinavaguptacarya, for both
are certainly historical figures. Jesus should not be a tabu
for Christians. They may consider him as God, and one does
not make any anthropological, let alone psychological, ana
lysis of the Godhead. It would be absurd to speak of Gods
mysticism. But he was also a Man, and one ought not avoid
trying to study him as one would study any other individual.
It has been rightly remarked that Jesus the preacher of the
message became Jesus the preached message.1 In point of
fact, most christologies deal with the message and are based
on the impact of Jesus on the first communities.2
But can we understand the message without understand
ing the messenger? We hear what he said. We know how
the others understood him. And this may be the reason why
in Christiap theology, with the exception of the mystics^ so
little emphasis is put on personal experience. Are we at all
allowed, at least in some degree, to re-enact his experience,
in order that our understanding will be not just a whimsical
subjective perception, but a re-enactment of the original ex
perience? Thus, the rather high sounding title of this study
which expands on the paper given at the seminar.
McGinn (1991) 63. The same point is made by Swidler (1988): The
teaching Jeshua, not the taught Christ (p. 10-19).
For bibliographic references see Bibliography R. Panikkar in Appendi x
(authors names followed by year of publication).
2Cp. Thompson (1985) which honours its subtitle and yet it is centred
in the Jesus event.
76 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
We have just indicated that the Sitz im Leben of this
meditation is not the usual Christian milieu. Traditional
Christian theology deals either with the complexities of the
Christian religion seeking to understand and formulate its
own basic tenets, or it deals with the effort to present Chris
tian beliefs in a manner comprehensible to the secularized
post-Christian people of the western or westernized world.
A dialogue in depth from within the basic insights of Chris
tianity and 3aivism has hardly taken place up to our times.
The Saiva religions can be called at most a-Christian, but
they are neither anti-Christian or post-Christian as the word
non-Christian generally suggests.
Being partners in dialogue at this symposium as either
Christian or Saiva believers, and aspiring to understand
Christ in this context, the background of the following re
flexions should not be that of inner-Christian controversies
or that of the usual Christian apologetics. The background
is not what I would call the Abrahamic phylum of humanity,
but rather the general horizon of the Indie mentality, mainly
of Vedantic spirituality. The first condition for teaching San
skrit to Gopal is to know Gopal, says an Indie saying. The
first condition to make oneself understood is to know your
partner. This implies, obviously, to know the context into
which the partner is going to insert what one is about to say
in order to understand it. History, past and present, tells
us too much of far-reaching misunderstandings caused by not
following this elementary rule.3
By doing this I do not pretend to indulge in compara
tive studies. I aim only at being intelligible within a context
which is not the Judeo-Christian-Muslim-Marxist-scientist
one. And in order to be more concrete, I have given a cer
tain preference to the Upanisadic mentality, without affirm
3We begin to have some attempts in this direction. Besides Akhi-
lananda (1949) cf. Ravindra (1990) and Sugirtharajah (1993).
PaniAA'ar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 77
ing that it represents a pan-Indic horizon.
I attempt therefore a Christian discourse in silent dialogue
with a 3aiva mind and heart. A Christian text purporting
to make sense in a Saiva context. I insist on this point
although writing in a western language I should also take into
account western-christian sensitivity. And in fact the critique
of some theologians has made me aware that I should not
neglect the modern exegetical perspective which, I take for
known. Our discourse has been going on for twenty centuries
and we need to pay our respects to our ancestors and
I repeat; we cannot neglect tradition, but we have no
right to freeze it either. And in fact, an increasing number
of westerners, especially younger generations, feel more and
more estranged by the venerable exegetical and theological
An example and, I am tempted to add, a paradigm, may
be helpful. Latin American Christology as reflected and prac
ticed by the so-called Theology of Liberation. We cannot
help but formulate certain suspicions, writes one of its best
exponents: For some reason it has been possible for Chris
tians, in the name of Christ, to ignore or even contradict
fundamental principles and values that were preached and
acted upon'by Jesus of Nazareth.4
The Indie background of this study is and is not similar to
that of Latin America. It is similar, inasmuch as the present-
day social structures and historical situation are perhaps even
worse than those of Latin America. The word dalit epitomizes
what we want to say. It is neither a Christian word nor an
exclusively Christian concern, but it cannot be ignored by
any christan reflection.5 Any christology in India, worth the
4Sobrino (1978) in the Preface to the English edn., p. xv.
5Cp. the telling title of Alegre (1995), and specially the contribution
of Gonzalez Faus (1995).
78 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
name, should be mainly da/if-christology.6
The Indie situation is but also dissimilar on two main ac
counts. On the one hand, although colonial Christianity may
have its part of responsibility for the present situatiort, the 2%
of the Christian population cannot be compared with the over
80 and perhaps 90% of the Christians of the Latin-American
continent. On the other hand, the Indie psyche as well as the
religious traditions of Indie peoples (which are much larger
than the boundaries of the Indian nation) have another expe
rience of and approach to reality than the mainly historical
awareness of the abrahamic traditions.
I had to insert this remark for the sake of clarification but
I should equally emphasize that this study is not a christology,
but a mystical meditation on the Man of Nazareth against
the backdrop of Indie cultures and for this reason I do not
shun the word mystical, ambivalent as it sounds in many
circles. But my intention is not Christian apologetics.
Some readers may find it awkward that I insist in giv
ing Greek and Latin quotes, and even, although sparingly,
introduce some Sanskrit words. This is done on purpose. The
more we dare to go forward, the more we need to be rooted
in tradition. Most of the Christian reflection is not based on
Kings James version, most of our present insights have been,
since long ago, patrimony of humanity, although in different
contexts. Those foreign words are like immigrants in our
countries. They enrich our awareness that we are not alone,
and prevent us from becoming provincial. Even the English
koine today cannot be limited to the idioms and sensibilities
of the inhabitants of the British isles.
I should finally remark that the literary genre of this
study is neither exegesis nor apologetics, neither Christian
hermeneutics nor religious psychology, neither confessional
theology nor mere rational philosophy. The word with which
6Cp. Pieris (1988) and Wilfred (1992) as examples.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
I would be less unsympathetic would be intercultural philos
ophy without defining it further.
* * *
2. The Notions and the Problem
In this context I would describe mysticism as the set of more
or less coherently formulated doctrines about the ultimate
experience(s) of reality. This ultimate experience of reality is
the locus of the mystical experience. Mysticism is the narra
tive of the mystical experience.
By doctrines I mean intelligible propositions formulated
in a particular language, this latter understood as a human
universe, the human way of being in and experiencing the
The word reality as used here stands for the largest word
embracing all that is, is thinkable, or in any way enters in our
consciousness, even if as unthinkable, ineffable, non-being or
the like. The word derives from res and suggests thing and
By ultimate I understand intellectual irreducibility. Some
thing is ultimate when it cannot be reduced any further, when
the sequence of thoughts stops, when the idea cannot be de
duced frofft another that is more general or certain, or when
the intuition does not go further. I imagine Plato would call
it the principle without (further) foundation ( arche anypo-
thetos (Rep. 510b). By saying this I am not affirming that
what is ultimate for some individual or group needs to be
ultimate for everybody else (against Plato in 511b who calls
here the anypothetos the principle of all: tou pantos arche).
One of the most intriguing discoveries in the praxis of dia
logue is the fact that what for me is non-negotiable or evident,
i.e. ultimate, for the partner may be disputable or not at all
ultimate! What I take for granted does not need to tally with
my partners myth.
80 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
By experience I understand conscious immediacy, i.e., an
awareness of something immediately present. There is no in
termediary, no mediation. The field of experience is human
consciousness. Experience could be said to be rooted in the
turiya ( Mandukya Upanisad) from which, as a raw material,
proceed all states of consciousness. Experience lies at the root
of any cognitive phenomenon, be it of the senses, the intel
lect or any other organ by which we come into contact with
reality without specifying to what extent, if at all, reality
accepts degrees.
In this sense, any experience is ultimate. Qua experience
it cannot be derived from anything else or deduced from an
other instance. But the experience I may have touching a stick
(which my eyes see as crooked when half plunged obliquely
in water) does not represent an ultimate for my mind, since
my mind may interpret the whole phenomenon in many dif
ferent ways and ascribe to it various degrees of truth, reality
or appearance: Is the snake I see with my imagination a real
snake, or is it perhaps a rope which I discover with my mind?
Or is the rope, as I think it to be, perhaps after all a divine
manifestation or no rope at all?
An ultimate reality is thus a reality which I cannot deduce
from anything else nor reduce to something else.
The mystical experience would then mean that experience
which discloses to the subject the ultimate reality, as we have
described it.
This is only a formal description. It cannot be otherwise,
because we claim the validity of this description beyond the
many actual interpretations of it. We leave open what this
ultimate reality may actually be.
It is customary to speak of union with the divine (be
it by love or knowledge), of touching the sacred, etc. While
agreeing with most of those descriptions within their respec
tive contexts we neither restrict mystical experience within
theistic or deistic worldviews, nor to a religious phenomenon
religious here understood in a very restrictive sense,
as if atheism could not also be religious. At any rate, the
field of mysticism has little to do with para-normal or para-
psychological phenomena.
A first problem is whether we can compare such expe
riences at all. And the problem is compounded because the
very contexts are different. It belongs to what I have called
diatopical hermeneutics.
It has been asked, for instance in Christian milieux in In
dia, at least since Brahmabandhav Updhyya and more re
cently in the case of Abhishiktnanda, what is the relation
between the Christian religious experience and the advaitic
experience.7 Our comment here is purely methodological.8.
We should first describe both experiences within their
respective contexts: personal/non-personal, historical/non-
historical, biblical/Upanisdic, somewhat dualistic/somewhat
monistic. We should not shun either the approach from
within (qualifying the Christian experience as unique, and
the upanisadic one as supreme) or the approach from with
out (describing the Christian experience as dualistic or social,
and the upanisadic as monistic or solitary). Del enemigo el
consejo says a Spanish proverb.
The comparison cannot be performed on an equal basis.,
Indeed, there is no possible comparison between two ulti
mate experiences.9 There is no meta-ultimate and thus neu
tral point of reference. We know by now that any question
involves the questioner, and that the answer, therefore, is an
7Mais quel rapport y-a-t-il entre la conscience religieuse du chrtien
et lexprience de ladvaita? Dupuis (1989) 87.
8Cp. the enlightening chapters in Gort (1992) studying in general,
and in particular cases whether we can share religious experience
although the case of Christ is not mentioned.
9Cp. Smiths (1992) controversy with Steven Katz and the corre
sponding bibliographical references.
Panfk/car: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 81
82 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
answer not only to the question but also to the questioner.
Should we then give up any attempt at a cross-cultural
understanding? Not necessarily, provided we remain aware of
the intrinsic limits of the entire endeavour. The bearers of the
respective experiences should engage in a dialogical dialogue,
well aware that the first item in the agenda, after the very
willingness to dialogue, is to agree in the rules of the selfsame
In each so-called experience we have an unbreakable cord
of four strands. We may distinguish but not separate them.
We see the one through the other, and at the same time we
are able to identify those four strings, although unable to
isolate them.
In each experience we have the pure experience, that spon
taneous, untemporal and unreflexive act by which we en
ter into immediate contact with reality. This experience is
the source from which all the further activities of our spirit
We have, secondly, the memory of that experience which
allows us to make it an object of description, analysis and
what not. The memory makes present the pure experience to
our mind, and, in a certain way, enriches it, since it combines
with it our past experiences, and focuses our consciousness
of it.
Thirdly, there is the reflexion, the thinking, the conscious
awareness of the experience mediated by the memory of it.
This reflexion allows us to interpret the experience accord
ing to the categories we have at our disposal. It is clear that
the moment we speak and reflect we are indebted to our en
tire upbringing, idiosyncracy and culture. We often tend to
consider our interpretation of the experience to be almost as
valuable and universal as the experience itself.
There is, fourthly, the fact that our own reflexion is not
exclusively our own as sociology of knowledge makes it clear:
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 83
we are not alone, we are integrated in a complex context of
an entire culture. We are intrinsically dependent on the space
and time where and when we happen to live. Our interpre
tations not only draw upon the memory of our experience;
they also draw upon the whole treasure of our past experi
ences and upon parallel and similar ideas we have inherited
from our own personal and collective past which act as a sort
of feed-back. The interpretations of others influence willy-
nilly the understanding of our own interpretation. We could
call it the reception of our experience into the complex body
of knowledge in which we ourselves are included.
In a word: E=e.m.i.r.
The complete experience is a compound of experience, its
memory, our interpretation, and its reception in the cultural
body of our time and place.
What then do we ask, for example, when we put the
question of the Christian experience and the advaitic expe
We have enough documents in our hands about m, i, and
r. But still we cannot say much about E if we do not know e,
the first and most important variable. We have heard many
times since Lucretius that if horses were to describe their
Godhead they would picture it as a great, wonderful and
almightyvTIorse philosophical subtleties notwithstanding
(for the human mind can overcome a certain anthropomor
phism). We know that faced with the same empirical (sen
suous) experience our descriptions may vary considerably
even though we belong to the same culture.
A possible approach to a reliable description of the two
experiences would be if we could find one and the same person
as the subject of the two experiences. And even then the
ultimate hiatus would not be overcome, as the other three
elements of the experience are already mutually influenced
by the parallel ones unless we were dealing with a totally
84 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
schizophrenic person, in which case the testimony would not
be valid.
However, our task is not to compare experiences in gen
eral, but to study the alleged or possible mystical experience
of Jesus the Christ. In order to know the experience of some
body we need to share in that experience. But how can we
know it? We may know the different cultural backgrounds*
we may also detect that we have similar interpretations, and
even surmise that our memories show a certain correspon
dence, but can we proceed further? Should we not stop here?
Nobody can have an experience by proxy. It woulcT not be
experience. The experience is personal and untransferable.10
But could it be that faith is precisely this sharing in the
ultimate experience? Or that person is more community than
individuality? Or that Godhead is more shared infinite (eter
nal) Life than an individual Supreme Being?
If we are to attempt to describe the experience of Christ
we cannot avoid such truly formidable problems.
* * *
To explore the mysticism of Jesus Christ is a daunty task
We are attempting to enter the holiest enclosure of some
body else, that we purport to reach the understanding of a
being whose nature is precisely to possess self-understanding.
Unlike all other objects of our knowledge, we cannot un
derstand a human being if we do not understand its self-
consciousness. Man is a self-conscious animal. And Jesus
Christ was also a Man. A Man, however, who seemed to have
taken seriously for himself and for others ( ye are Gods, Jn
10 Cp. my chapter The Supreme Experience in Panikkar (1983)
XXVII pp. 291-317. .
11 Cp. Renwart (1993) where he analyses some fifteen contemporary
books of Christology. None of them touches our point. A very important
book, but of narrative theology, is Kuschel (1990).
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 85
X.34) that we may share divine nature (II Petr. 1.4): And
in fact this has been the inmost natural aspiration of every
Christian even of every Man, since the urge to become infi
nite ( like God, in a particular set of languages) seems to be
constitutively human. In spite of differences, Jesus was not
the only one to reveal to us the abyss of the aham-brahmdsmi
( I am Brahman). This in no way means that Jesus is an
avatdra among many.12 I have made it clear time and again
that the docetic figure of an avatdra is morphologically differ
ent from the Christian belief in the incarnation.13 The divine
can descend many times in the form of an avatdra which is
simply a visible form of God; whereas plurality of incarna
tions in the Christian context is as contradictory as a plu
rality of Gods in a monotheistic worldview. They all would
How can we proceed? Is there any appropriate, or even
legitimate method? Should we not be the other person if
we want to know how the person understands herself? Indi-
viduum inejfabile, said the ancients. The necessary knowledge
of the context in order to understand a text here becomes
paramount. Within the individualistic worldview represented
and to some extent introduced by the cartesian cogito the dif
ficulties are insuperable. But we know that every text is also,
a pretextrto say something, and that we need to reach the
texture of a text in order to discover the pretext above and
beyond the context.
This, parenthetically, is an important ingredient for dia-
topical hermeneutics, the interpretations of contexts being
governed by principles different from that of texts. We also
need to understand the pretexts: an existential affair which
12Harnack betrayed his bias clearly: were I to hold it (the doctrine
of the pre-existence of Christ), I would have to assume that revelations
of God had also taken place in pagan peoples apud Kuschel (1992),
p. 38.
13Cp. my two responses Panikkar (1989/3) and (1994/48).
8 6 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
transcends the merely conceptual understanding of a text.
Our query skyrockets, because here we are not primarily
dealing with a text, but with a person whom we come
to know, nevertheless, through a series of texts. Or can we
also have access to the mystery of the person by other means?
One thing we may advance however. The texts may not be all
that is needed in order to understand and know a living issue
( the letter killeth II Cor. Ill, 6), but we cannot bypass the
texts (cp. II Tim. III.16; II Petr. 1.20; etc.). We cannot deal
here with the entire problematic, but we should mention it
so that we may overcome the modern and nominalistic temp
tation of solving truly human problems by isolating abstract
* * *
Let us restate our query. There was a Man, almost 2000 years
ago. In comparison with other figures of world history, he was
not exceedingly extraordinary. He was a straight-forward and
just Man who did not allow himself to be trapped in any
extreme position, whether political or religious: a Man who
died young because he irritated the powers that be with his
unflinching attitude against hypocrisy. He was put to death.
For the past two millennia his death, or rather as many
would prefer to say, his resurrection has inspired millions,
has been the central point of reference and has mightily in
fluenced, unlike anyone else, the course of history. He did not
write a single line; he spoke and acted. A handful of simple
folks gathered in his memory and commemorated his death
and life.
What did this Man think of himself? Is it not sheer blas
phemy to dare to enter into the inner sanctuary of a person?
But if for so long a time he has been the central symbol for
so many people from every walk of life, we may be allowed
to ask why and attempt to unveil the mystery of this Man.14
But we should proceed step by step.
The Text
The traces of Jesus are sufficiently clear. There are thou
sands of studies retracing and scrutinizing his footsteps in the
minutest detail. Fortunately enough the traces are not so in
numerable: Some thirty years of quiet existence (and I would
underscore the importance of this silent period); some three
years, or perhaps only one, of intense activity. We possess
the four gospels plus a limited number of canonical and non-
canonical documents, and some vestiges in later literature.15
We know, further, his impact for twenty centuries, eliciting
exalted apologetics, vicious attacks, and a gamut of interpre
tations between these extremes, as well as novels and films
about the Man of Nazareth. All this also belongs to the pic
ture of Jesus. We will limit ourselves, however, to his imme
diate historical past.
We know some of his words, many utterances attributed
to him, a good number of his deeds, and we may reasonably
surmise his main intentions.
The rough picture that emerges from all this may be re
duced to thb following:
Jesus was a young Galilean who lived in a troubled area
of a small part of the world, a marginal area by the politi
cal standards of the time. He belonged to a people who were
14No wonder that a theologian, so shunned by many, could write that
the important thing is not to evoke in oneself the same feelings as Christ,
but to grasp Christ himself, Adolf von Harnack apud Kuschel (1992)
p. 40.
15For canonical sources cp. the New Test ament and for non-canonical
cp. the Apocrypha and also ORBE (1975) and following volumes of
the same collection. For a useful Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by
Chronological Stratification and Independent Attestation cp. Crossan
(1991) pp. 427-50 with 522 items.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 87
88 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
proud of their millennial history and felt that an imminent
catastrophe was coming as a result of internal crisis, and es
pecially of external dominance by a foreign and powerful em
pire. Whether he was a full jew or only on his mothers side,16
Jesus did not join the conservative sadducees, the extremist
zealots, nor take the middle path of the pharisees or the more
esoteric essenes. He stood alone and felt an immense com
passion for the am ha-arez, the uneducated simple folks, and
for a time aroused their enthusiasm, although he was only
followed, without much understanding, by a handful of men
and women of different social strata, mainly of humble ori
gin. This happened almost two thousand years agQ. He was
crucified by the romans, at the instigation of his own people.
During that period thousands of people had been crucified
for not complying with the political status quo. Today al
most everything is forgotten except the life of that intriguing
and singular figure of Joshua, the son of Mary.
As for his acts, they took the form of doing good to the
simple people by healing them in body and spirit, and preach
ing the forgiveness of sins. Occasionally he engaged in dispute
with the learned; more often he preached in the open to the
humble. His best remembered sayings, the Beatitudes, which
were supposed to have been delivered on a mountain side or
on a plain in the countryside sounded beautiful but a little
naive. To his more immediate friends (as he called them) he
may have delivered a more intimate message, emphasizing
unity and intimacy with him. He seemed to follow the ritual
of his own tradition, although apparently with a certain free
dom, even to the extent of introducing a rather disconcerting
meaning into the jewish idea of sacrifice.
Most of his doctrines were within the frame of his own
jewish tradition, stressing love of God and neighbour, peace
for all, and freedom from fear. We can .find those lofty doc
18Cp. Rosenberg (1986), pp. 27 sq. et passim.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
trines in many prophets and saints (to utilize these two words
of jewish tradition) of most of the human traditions. Some
have also interpreted him as a coward, a liar and a Man who
aroused expectations and promised spiritual rewards, though
well aware that he could not deliver them. In sum, the son of
Mary aroused hatred and love in both ancient and modern
The Context
All those traces were not left in the air, but were imprinted
on jewish soil, in roman times and in the context of Semitic
ways of thinking and experiencing the world. His audience
was not of Africa, Greece, India, China, or Europe; his back
ground was not even of Iran, Egypt, Babylonia, Sumeria.17
He knew how to read and probably also write, but he did not
show any knowledge of the wide world or of other cultures,
than his own in spite of occasional echoes we may hear of
other traditions, if we come from other backgrounds. They
may simply be human factors common to the human race.
We may speculate about his journeys abroad while young,
but apart from having no proof of this whatever, we find
hardly any trace of other cultures either in his words or in
his behaviour.18
17Jesus shows no sign of Hellenistic influence Maisch/Vogtle (1969)
p. 176. The different entries of the Sacramentum Mundi (1969) III, 174-
209 (with abundant bibliography) are worth reading. The descriptions
by Crossan (1990) are also enlightening.
18 Cp. four very different and yet related descriptions of the Man Je
sus: Ben-Chorin (1967) (who incidentally does not quote any of the Je
sus texts we are going to comment upon) describing Der Nazarener
in jdischer Sicht; L. Swidler (1988) making of the jew Yeshua the
measure of what it means to be Christian (p. 1) of course, a Yeshua
who is feminist and a very radical one (p. 95) and androgynous; A.
Rosenberg (1986) who liberates Jesus from his Old Testament ancestry
and presents him as literally bar nascha (Son of Man); Augstein (1972)
showing the incongruencies of all the theologies and churches building
upon the shaky foundations of a concocted Jesus of Nazareth.
In a word, we cannot understand Jesus without situating
him in his immediate jewish popular context. I say popular
because we do not detect in his life any traces of a scholar. He
was not a Gamaliel, a Paul of Tarsus, an Akiba or any other
of the intellectual giants of his tradition. Whatever the Quest
for the historical Jesus in the Christian theology of the last
two centuries may mean and whatever tensions we may find
between the latter and the Christ of faith, the personality
of Jesus the Christ is impossible to understand if we erase or
minimize the concrete traits of a jewish individual who lived
and died not more than sixty generations ago.
Our Texture
These sixty generations have contributed heavily towards
both clarifying and blurring the understanding of Jesus. He
has been regarded as anything from the Son of God to an
impostor, or a small insignificant figure who was made a
scapegoat by several groups of people for their own parti
cular purposes, religious, political, gnostic, fanatical, or lofty.
Probably no other figure in history has been pictured in more
variegated forms.19 I refer not only to the so-called Lives of
Jesus, but also to all the Jesuologies underpinning all kinds
of theologies, christologies, ecclesiologies, and what not. Can
we pass through that jungle?20 It has been remarked by an
exegete that the proliferation of exegetical studies reminds
him of the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews question
ing the efficacy of the Temple sacrifices on the grounds that
19Cp. Pelikan (1987) for a fascinating description of western history
through the positive impact of Jesus upon the world. . . . as respect for
the organized church has declined, reverence for Jesus has grown (p.
20Cp. the ironical and sad remark by a brilliant Indian exegete (who
died of an accident in 1995 riding his bicycle!) How many of the more
than 1500 books and articles published on the Gospels each year really
touch upon problems which matter to people? Soares-Prabhu (1981)
90 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
they have to be offered for ever, year after year (for why,
unless they were ineffectual had they to go on and on?).21
We could build three huts, one for religious people, a sec
ond for politicians, and a third for sceptics and the indifferent;
but we cannot elaborate a picture of Christ that would elicit
some kind of consensus. This very impossibility, which poses
a great challenge for what I have called a christophany for
our times,22 serves our purpose very well because it offers a
description of some traits of the personality profile (to speak
irreverently) of Jesus of Nazareth. An example may explain
this point.
We may assert that an alleged Jesus said I and the Father
are One. I am not hereby affirming that the son of Mary
actually did say it, nor that this proves his divinity, or that
he was actually mad when he said it, or was a genuine rogue
in putting forward such a claim. I merely say that the traces
of the historical or mystical Jesus, as they have come down
to us, bear witness to such an affirmation.
We may perhaps also say that he was the lover of Mary
Magdalene, the secret father of John the alleged evangelist,
a refined hypocrite, and a cunning coward who had a secret
political plan to overthrow both romans and jews in order to
establ i shes fundamentalists messianic reign; or we may say
that he was only a fanatic illegitimate jew whose plans went
sour because Judas, the Sanhedrin, or whoever, checkmated
his moves. Perhaps we now know him better through the
fruits his followers have left behind. We cannot discard a
priori any possible interpretation, although we should defend
21 He goes on saying: may not we similarly wonder about the effec
tiveness of a method which continues to pour out an endless succession
of studies on the same narrow compass of subjects . . . Soares-Prabhu
(1981) 317. I am reminded, of course, of the fundamental methodological
question of the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad that it is not analyzing objects
how we shall know a subject (BU III, 4 sq.).
22 Cp. Panikkar (1992/34).
Pani/ckar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 91
92 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ohr stance a posteriori, presenting a convincing picture of his
personality in a way that is somewhat independent of our
particular judgements.
I am saying that our particular spectacles indeed shape
the form we see of Jesus, but that the fact of being aware of
having lenses and also having an idea of how they form or
deform the image allows us to qualify our description with
the necessary factors of uncertainty or variability in order to
make possible a concrete picture which may be credible to
a fair number of those for whom the name of Jesus is not a
matter of indifference.
I am not going to argue whether my interpretation is the
correct one. I present it as a plausible one.
Our query was whether we can penetrate into the inner
chamber of another individual, or do we have to be content
with reconstruing a past event like a detective story? The ba
sic issue is whether Christian faith is exclusively based on trust
in theological or ecclesiastical detectives who retrace the foot
prints of the historical founder of Christianity, or whether it
also has another source. Does Christian faith rely on a his
torical book or on a personal experience? Is it something like
grace or simply the intelligent conclusion of a syllogism? A
fundamental question indeed!
I should not be misunderstood by western Christians who
abide by the myth of history. It makes no sense denying that
Jesus was a jew, a historical individual of a couple of millennia
ago. But there is no point in ignoring that in many parts of
the world, and for the coming third Christian millennium, the
figure of Christ could or actually does make sense if seen
under another light. In traditional Christian language I would
affirm, that if Jesus was a jew, the risen Jesus, i.e. Christ is
neither gentile, greek, or jew . . . But there is no point now
in indulging in theological controversies. Our aim simply is
to understand the figure of Christ within a wider context
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 93
than the Semitic and historical one which is, incidentally,
the texture of over half of humankind. Does one need the
circumcision of the mind in order to understand the Man
from Galilee when his closest associates already dismissed
the circumcision of the body?23
I would like to reassure Christians that nothing is lost of
the depths of Christian tradition by relinquishing a certain
monopoly on Christ, and that our interpretation fits into or
thodoxy if we do not identify orthodoxy with microdoxy.
And I would reassure those who are not within the Christian
belief that nothing is lost of the depths of their respective
traditions by understanding the figure of Christ as the Chris
tian name for a homeomorphic equivalent of what other reli
gions express and understand differently. The great difficulty,
to put it philosophically, comes with the substantiaiization of
that what.
It may be retorted that the proper context of Jesus was
the jewish world and that we are not allowed to extrapo
late. Yet the first generations of Christians, perhaps begin
ning with John and culminating in Ephesus and Chalcedon,
already made the transplant into the hellenistic world. It
should, therefore, not be forbidden to proceed to a further
intercultural transplant. I may be reminded that we are not
now in the same situation as in those foundig times. I would
simply reply: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and
into the ages (Hebr. XIII.8). In other words, because I do not
deny history or indulge in a gnostic interpretation of Christ,
I take history seriously and I do not reduce it to times past.24
23Cp. Panikkar (1992/47).
241 found Dupuis (1994) only after the last redaction of this study.
This book comes very close to our problem, presenting a christology
centered in the person of Christ and open to the other religions of the
world. He criticises dogmatic and genetic methods as deductive and finds
a hermeneutical triangle ttin the mutual interaction among text, context
and inerpreter (9). This allows him to call for many diversified the
94 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Let us return to the Man Jesus, and come and see.
3. Three Anthropologies
We have the main question still pending. To be sure we can
not do without the text. But the text is not enough. We
remember after all that the devil can quote Scripture for his
purpose (cp. Matth. IV.6). We cannot bypass the text, but
how can we pass through it without getting entangled in bar
ren subtleties or pernicious views as the buddhist would
The answer is clear: Tradition is, along with Scripture,
a necessary hermeneutical tool. But tradition, like Scripture
itself, is polysemic as well as fluid, changing and alive.
All too often tradition is understood as a set of doctrines
crystallised in dogmatic formulations interpreting scriptural
texts. We then have a sort of doctrinal Christianity, almost
an ideology erected on the basis of some historical facts as
interpreted by succeeding generations. The result is a body of
doctrines, a belief-system, like the constitution of a state or a
charter of an institution, which allows for cohesion, discipline
and efficiency. But is religion simply an organisation? Is faith
only the correct interpretation of doctrine?
ologies and Christologies ( 10), to the point of paving the way for a
Christology of religions. Perhaps these pages may be, if not an ap
proach to such a Christology, yet a stepping stone in that direction
since 1 do not intend any christology but only a meditation on a realistic
not docetic christophany.
250ur study is not concerned with a critique o f Biblical Criticism*. We
may pay heed, however, to it: For it is precisely this use of a histori cal
method to interpret a religious text which explains the failure of critical
exegesis to disclose the real meaning of the Gospels, while supplying
masses of information about them . . . A method fashioned to obtain
exact informat ion is being used to interpret a text which aims at the
personal transformation . . . The method is thus incommensurate with
the intention of the text . . . It may be incommensurate with the nature
of the text too. Soares-Prabhu (1981) 318.
Paaikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 95
We have often forgotten .that tradition means much more
than this. The handing down ( tradere) of tradition is not
reduced to producing a corrected, well-edited, and up-to-date
version of Scripture. What tradition transmits is life, faith,
a sense of belonging and community, an orientation in life, a
sharing in a common destiny. Christian tradition is not just
doctrine. It is also ecclesia in the deepest sense of the word.
It has to do, not only with what Jesus said or did, but with
who, he was and who we are.
We are saying that Tradition is more than authoritative or
normative hermeneutics. What tradition hands over is more
than a text or an interpretation. It transmits a living and
thus spoken word. The intention and even the nature of our
texts, transcend what a critico-historical method is capable
of extracting from them. But how do we know this? For some
centuries a certain apologetics has tried to convince us that
the texts themselves witness to their intention and nature.
But if the same text validates itself, we are falling into a vi
cious circle, and it is an invalid witness. The criterion has to
lie outside the text itself. And we cannot be satisfied with
the general recognition of the hermeneutical circle that we
require a particular pre-understanding because we know of
other equally valuable pre-understandings which contest our
interpretations. In a word, we need something outside of and
prior to all texts and scriptures. Here, incidentally, vedic exe
gesis could offer some help. We may simplify our problem by
stating that Word is not Scripture, that Word is irreducible to
Writing and even to interpretation. Apostolic succession, to
use a traditional notion, is more than orthodox transmission
of doctrines.26
If Jesus Christ means something to Christian tradition it
is because in one way or another Christians hear (cp. Rom.
i #. . . die Schrift [ist] nicht das Wort, sondern das Zeugnis des Geistes
vom Wort . . . Balthasar (1961) 1.28.
96 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
X.17) words of eternal life, and not mere correct statements
about the state of the world. We need to know the Man: Ecce
homol This is our concern.
Whom do the crowds say me to be? Jesus asked. Notice
that the I is grammatically avoided, if we translate the greek
literally (Lk IX.18 cp. Mk VIII.27. Mt XVI.15). This me
was obviously Jesus the Man who stood before his disciples.
Before the predicates of the famous petrine answer (Mes
siah, Son of God) there stands the very subject: su, You (you
are . . . ). We should open our ears and eyes to the mys
tery of the thou. He asks about his I and the response says
You. This thou can be understood in terms of a threefold
anthropological paradigm at least: Man as an individual, as
a person, or as image of the divine although this threefold
division is neither the only possible nor an exclusive one. In
fact, we shall build on all three aspects.
We shall first describe Jesus within the predominant mod
ern framework of western individualism. Secondly, we shall of
fer some reflections within a larger western framework, and,
thirdly, make a brief reference to the Indie reception of the
(a) Individualistic
That Jesus is or rather was an individual is something unde
niable even if Scripture and Tradition refer to Christ as
a generic Man, a second Adam in whom all human nature
is assumed.27 What is an individual: an isolated substance?
The prevalent human consciousness today, mainly of western
origin, is that Man Is an indiviualistic entity.
Within this framework, we have only one door into the
holy of holies, the mystery of individuality: we cannot cross
the threshold, but we can observe the traces left by the person
27Cp. vgr. Panikkar (1981/ X) p. 74.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 97
concerned. These traces are detected through an unavoidable
triple mediation: what the traces in themselves manifest of
the individual concerned, how the traces appear over against
the ground on which they stand, and what form they take
when seen through our personal eye-glasses. This is to say:
(i) the words and deeds of the individual as the individuals
(ii) (these) words spoken and deeds done within a very con
crete context (which gives them meaning and value);
(iii) our interpretation of all this through our own partic
ular vision, which in its turn is coloured by the set of
presuppositions without which we cannot approach the
investigation of the traces.
Three formidable dragons defend the intimate castle of pri
vate individuality one is tempted to say, of the sacredness
of Man.
But this is not all. If we succeed in lifting the drawbridge
that would introduce us into the interior castle of the others
individuality, we will be overwhelmed and overpowered by it
unless we show the symbol of authenticity, the credentials
that give credibility to our witness. This can happen only if
the centre of that castle is not a private property of that indi
vidual, i.e., if that centre somewhat belongs also to our own
centre. Only in ourselves, we may encounter or perhaps un
derstand the mystery of the identity of another being.28.1 can
meet the identity of someone else only by sharing in the very
identity of the other.29 Everything else is mere bureaucratic
identification, not real identity.
28Cp. two important works, which we cannot comment here: Chatter-
jee (1963) affirming that without the prior condition of intersubjectivity,
there can be neither the concept of my self nor that of the other* self.
(217), and Ricoeur (1990) distinguishing between cidentite-idem* ( same,
gleich) and identite-ipse (self, Selbst) (13 and passim).
29Cp. Panikkar (1977/3).
98 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Identification consists in situating the other within a co
ordinates system so as to avoid confusion with any other
being. Each being is univocaily determined. In our case we
could identify Jesus of Nazareth as that jew, son of Mary,
born most probably in Bethlehem around the year 4 small
BCywho after some years of activity in his own country died
on a roman cross in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate. Such
identification does not leave any doubt about what we are
talking about.
But have we really reached the core of that individual?
Have we really come to know him, have we penetrated into
his personal intimacy, his self-consciousness, into what he sin
cerely thought of himself?30 Identification is not identity. In
order to come near to his identity we need another type of
approach, above and beyond the first. We need loving knowl
edge. Otherwise we reach only the what, not the who of the
Phenomenologically speaking, love is a non-dualistic
experience.32 This is why love is so reluctant to enter into
any Husserlian noema. Love is neither sameness nor alter
ity, neither one nor two. Love requires differentiation without
separation; it is a going out towards the other that rebounds
in a genuine going in into oneself, a discovery of the other
through the total acceptance of the other in the bosom of my
Without love we may be able to have a certain acquain
30 For a description of the theological discussion about the faith of
Christ* (Hebr., XII.2) whether it is an objective or a subjective genitive,
i.e. whether we can say that Jesus Christ could have no faith, because he
had vision, or whether he had also faith, cp. Collins/Kendall (1992). Cp.
also the chapter Jesus* Faith in Schoonenberg (1971) p. 146: Believing
is a deed or attitude of the whole person: it is not merely a recognition
of truths.
31 Cp. Panikkar (1972/6) and (1972/14).
32Cp. Panikkar (1983) XXVII, Advaita and Bhakti pp. 277-89.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 99
tance with an object, locate that object, describe its features,
and predict its behaviour. This is generally called scientific
knowledge. But our case is not the cognition of an object,
but the knowledge of a thou, itself a knowing subject. In
order to do this I have to know myself in such a way that
there is room for the other within myself, so that the other
is not just an outer, but the other of my-self, another self
perhaps of the Self. At any rate, in order to know the other
truly, the movement has to be reciprocal: an encounter has to
occur, I have to be loved by the other so that I may see the
other in the mirror into which my own self has been converted
by the love of the other. Christian scripture says: if one loves
God, one is known by him [si quis autem diligit Deum, hie
cognitus est ab eo] (I Cor VIII.3); Then I shall know as I
am known [tunc autem cognoscam, sicut et cognitus sum]
(I Cor XIII.12).
Practically all human traditions have emphasized purity
of heart as the most essential requisite for knowledge and
for authentic life.33 Only a sahrdaya ( Man-with-a-heart) is
capable of grasping the full power of a sentence, says Indie
poetics.34 Only the pure of heart will be able to truly see the
other, the others, the Other, God: Blessed are the pure in
heart, forthey shall see God (Mt V.8). It is also what John
says: In this we know that we have known him, if we keep
his commands (I Jn II.3). If our praxis is correct, our theory
will be true. Or even more boldly: I wrote to you, children,
because you have known the Father (I Jn 11.13; cp. also 14).
We can know him (cp. Jn VIII.28).
Can we really cross this drawbridge? Can we open up the
chamber of our self so as to make room for another self ? Can
33Suffice to mention the Upanisadic requirements for studying sacred
lore; cp. as a single instance Sankara, Vivekacudamani, 16-37.
34Cp. Gispert-Sauch (1974), 139, in a short and important study on
biblical exegesis from an Indie perspective.
100 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
the fusion of horizons required for an authentic understand
ing reach .a fusion of selves without confusion? Or should we
sit respectfully at the threshold of the other self-consciousness
and simply gaze like the friends of Job? Christian mystics
spoke of becoming alter Christus. We are purporting here
to experiencing ipse Christus, perhaps encouraged by St.
Pauls outburst: I live, no more (my) ego, but lives in me
Christ (Gal. 11.20. Cp. Col. III.4).
To sum up, if Man is just an individual, there is not much
scope in pretending to penetrate into the ego of another one.
Man has individuality, but is more than an individualistic
We have until now presented the problem assuming the
modern western dogma of human individualism. However,
the modern notion of human individuality does not need to
be interpreted to mean that each of us is a monad without
windows. We could be still monads, but with relationships
to other individuals. Yet this assumption, this myth actually,
does not represent a universal conviction, and even present-
day western philosophical reflection is beginning to take no
tice of serious criticisms of such an interpretation. Todays
predominant culture, western in origin, seems to have ex
hausted the advantages of individualism, and people within
that very culture are discovering that such a stance leads
to philosophical solipsism, sociological atomism, and polit
ical quantification of the human being, resulting isolation,
consumerism, and undeclared wars of all against all.
It is in this climate that modern reflection on the hu-
manum is situated. One of its most positive features is the
new emphasis on the person over against the individual.
(b) Personalistic
We have already said that there are other ways of approaching
the question of who was Jesus.
Paaikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 101
I describe the person as a knot in a net of relationships.
Individuality would be the abstract knot, i.e., the knot ab
stracted, severed from all the threads which precisely make
the knot. The knots without the threads are nothing, the
threads without the knots could not subsist. The knots have
a very practical use; they allow efficient ways of treating the
individual, from identification cards to the human rights of
the individual. But a knot is a knot because it is made of
threads tied together with other knots through a network
of threads. The knots are not unreal, nor the threads, for
that matter. They belong constitutively together. But this
is too spatial and objective a simile. It shows how an indi
vidual knot is impossible, and how all the knots imply each
other and hang together. Reality is the net, reality is rela
tional. But the simile does not stress sufficiently that other
human intuition, which is both eastern and western, that in
each being all other beings are somewhat reflected, included,
represented. The en panti panta ( everything in everything
or all in all) of Anaxagoras, the sarvam-sarvdtmakam of
saivism, microcosm/macrocosm corelation of Aristotle and
the Upanisads, the pratityasamutpada of buddhism, the spec
ulation of neoplatonism, the perichoresis of Christianity (and
Anaxagoras) and the specular nature of the universe (from
speculum, mirror) along with the universality of the intellec-
tus agens of the medieval scholastics up to modern scientific
morphogenetic and magnetic fields, seem to suggest a less in
dividualistic worldview in which the castle of our story may
not need such formidable dragons for its defence.
Our purpose is to share in the self-awareness of Jesus of
Nazareth. But, first, we should tackle the general problem of
the possible interpenetration of consciousnesses.
Are we so sure that each individual consciousness is a
closed fortress? Is not the real cogito a cogitamus, and the
sum a sumusl Even more: is it so certain that Being is a
dead thing, or that the idea of reality as a Mystical Body or a
dharma-kdya is simply a figure of speech. Are we so convinced
that consciousness is only an individual epiphenomenon, even
private property?
Our doubt is whether the very problem how to know
another self has been correctly stated. We are touching on
one of the main philosophical issues of our times, one which
emerges in a number of fundamental philosophical reflections.
We could adduce the example of the object/subject split both
on the epistemological and on the ontological level. The prob
lem of the anima mundi, with all its political and ecological
consequences refers also to the same question. It is the prob
lem of personalism, and that of an animistic worl-dview.35
I understand by worldview a conscious reception of the
world, or rather the impact that the kosmos, understood as
the entire reality, makes on our conscious being. An animistic
worldview would regard the nature of reality as alive, and, in
a sense, personal. Being is personal, could be a short formula
which of course needs explanation. Person would then be
the primal level of Being and not as in most vitalistic
movements, just a late epiphenomenon of reality, a sort of
accident of Being. All too often ontology speculates on Being
as if dealing with lifeless entities. I am defending the personal
character of reality. I understand person as anthropos, as that
irreducible dimension of reality under which we experience it.
The person is the sat-purusa, the true Man, the whole reality,
we may say, relying on the purusa-sukta of the Rg Veda (X.90,
35The reader may hear echoes in what I am going to say of a good
number of contemporary philosophers. 1 mention some of them in the
bibliography, but the list is not exhaustive: Bergson, Berdiaef, Blondel,
Boulgakov, Buber, Bultraann, Cullmann, Ebner, Gasset, Gilson, Guar-
dini, Heidegger, Marcel, Maritain, Mounier, Nedoncelle, Ortega y Gas
set, Rahner, Scheler, Schweitzer, Zubiri, without citing living thinkers
or those of older times. 1 do not mention here Indie thinkers since the
problematic is somewhat different.
102 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 103
though this expression is here not used).
For a scientific-evolutionistic pattern of thinking, to know
the temporal genesis of something is equivalent to its intelligi
bility. This has led many to imagine that Being, considered as
the most general idea at the basis of everything, is an amor
phous reality, the ens communtssimum of the scholastics. Ev
erything is supposed to have evolved from an inert primal
matter (at the big bang or not) either by its own dynamism
or by dint of a Supreme Engineer (to console the naive be
lievers). Perhaps in contrast to an ontologie personnaliste36
this dead ontology is the source of a certain discredit alien
of metaphysical speculations. One should add that the Chris
tian terror of pantheism led the scholastics to make a radical
separation between ens realissimum (God) and ens commune
(ultimately an abstraction).37 We may recall the old discus
sions on ontologism.
Our problem is the knowledge of the other. Can my ego
encounter, and ultimately know, another ego? It is obvious
that if person means to be the private proprietor of ones
own being, Selbstgehrigkeit,38 and, ultimately, if Being is
impersonal, there is no possibility of trespassing on individual
boundaries. We have to respect and eventually tolerate each
other, and this is all. Privacy has an ultimate status. This
has led to the deleterous notion of God as an Other that
36Ndoncelle (1970) 41-47. The entire first part is entitled tre et
personne, although he does not elaborate on the problem sketched here.
37That was the fear of Garrigou-Lagrange (1953), the dominican who
for decades dominated Roman Theology, a great expert in mysticism,
and who could not deny that the Incarnation seemed to tarnish the
absoluteness of God: Lacte pur est irreu et irreceptif, irrecept us et
irreceptivus. Sil tait reu dans une puissance, il serait particip et
limit, s il recevait une perfection nouvelle, il serait en puissance par
rapport elle, et ne serait plus Acte pur , p. 345. He is right; ontological
monotheism does not leave room for the Christian Incarnation in spite
of all the distinguos of Thomas Aquinas.
38Guardini (1950) 99.
104 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
scrutinizes our intimacy and interferes with our identity, as
an alienating Stranger who de-humanizes us.39
If, on the wake of German idealism we divide reality
into I and Non-I (which simply retranslates the Cartesian
dichotomy between res cogitans and res extensa), if we be
gin with the great divide between spirit and matter, we shall
end with an atomistic view not only of matter, but also of
spirit. Leibniz draws the philosophical consequence, and mod
ern individualism its sociological follow-up. It is clear that the
Non-I cannot merge with the I without destroying the I or
destroying itself. The principle of non-contradiction cannot
be dethroned from any diction. But reality is not composed
of I and Non-I. Reality is not dialectical; reason is. The Thou
belongs also to reality and the Thou is neither contradictory
nor foreign to the I. The Thou is neither I nor Non-I. The
relationship is advaitic.
The I-Thou relationship is not dualistic like the relation
of two substances. I and Thou are not two things. They are
constitutively related. There is no I without a Thou and
vice-versa. Nor is it a monistic relationship. They are consti
tutively related. There is no I without a Thou and vice-
versa. Nor is it a monistic relationship. They are not identical.
I-Thou is irreducible to I (alone) or to Thou (alone), or to a
superior It (of a higher unity). To discover myself as Thou
is to discover my deepest identity, neither in the face of an
other, nor within a narcissistic mirror. It amounts to discov
ering my dynamic ipse, to being my-self: tat tvam asi! The
tvam belongs inseparably to the tat. That art Thou. How
can I know another person? How can I even dare penetrate
39This is one of the main concerns of Schoonenbergs theology (against
the atheism of Sartre, Camus, and others). God wdoes not dehumanize
us, but makes us fully human, ultimately through his Word become
man. . . our divinization is our humanization, Schoonenberg (1971) 7.
Already Guardini had addressed this problem half a century ago.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 105
into the holy of holies of the personal intimacy of another
human being?
This is, I repeat, a wrong question. Wrong in itself, be
cause if we mistake a person for an individual, there is an
internal contradiction between being one individual ( divisum
a se ab aliis vero distinctum) and being another individual. I
would cease to be the individual that I am if I were to really
know another individual qua individual and vice-versa.
The knowing or intruding individual would destroy the in
dividuality of the known individual, who would cease to be
the individual that it is. This knowledge of the other (which
is obviously a knowledge without love) destroys the other;
it alienates. We speak of a real knowledge of another person
and not of our capacity to predict behaviours and control
events. We refer to that knowledge which reaches a certain
identity with the thing known. And whatever be the case for
so-called inanimate entities, our case refers to the knowledge
of persons.
A person is neither an individual nor an impersonal Da-
sein. By virtue of being ultimate, person defies any definition.
Person is relationship because Being is relationship. Being is
a verb, a-communitarian, i.e. personalistic action: esse est
coesse and coesse est actus essendi.
If this is the case, a person is not only communicable, it is
itself communication. An isolated individual person is a con
tradiction in terms. The very nature of knowledge, and not
mere calculus, is already personal, has a personal character.
To know is to share personhood. And personhood is relation
ship. A person is not only comraunicability; it is communion.
I am person inasmuch as I am communion. Communion does
not mean possession: it does not mean that other beings (ob
jects or other people) belong to me; it is not a property of
objects. Communion means belonging together as subjects
(and not as mere objects of a higher subject). Communion
106 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
does not mean that an I possesses a thou (or a thou an I), but
that both belong together, that there is not the one without
the other, and vice-versa. The I is not prior to the thou nor
does the thou make the I. They are strictly reciprocal, their
being is a coesse, a Mitsein. Ser es estar juntos.
This implies that I cannot know another individual if I
treat that individual as an object. In this latter case, I may
identify an it, but I cannot discover its identity. Nobody can
say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit (I Cor. XII.3).
This statement would sound rather absurd if saying meant
uttering terms and not knowing, that is becoming, what one
It is enlightening to remember that scholastic philosophy
since at least St. Ambrose,40 and probably St. Justin41 be
lieved that any truth, regardless of who said it, comes from
the Holy Spirit,42.
The aliud may be hell for the individual (Sartre), but the
alius is part and parcel of the person. Alienation does not
come from meeting the a/ius, but from being swallowed by
the aliud. It is lack of love which transforms the a/ius, in
the last analysis the thou, into an aliud, a thing, an object
(which, the moment it has power, becomes threatening and
instils dread).
While the question of the personal awareness of Christ
was not a great problem once the tenets of the Council of
Chalcedon were accepted (the Christ person is the divine per
son acting in two natures as his organs43), in the first part
40Cp. Glosaa Lombardi (PL 191, 1651 A) and also Glossa ordi naria
(PL 17, 245 and 258 B), as well as the Ambrosiaster. In I Cor. XII.3 (PL
17, 245 and 258 B).
41 Cp. Mourroux (1952) 222 for further commentaries.
42Thomas Aquinas liked to repeat this phrase: Omne verum a
quocumque dicatur, a Spiritu Sane to est, cp. Sum. theol. III, q. 109,
a. 1 in 1; In Joan. VIII, lect. 6; etc.
43Cp. John of Damascus, De fi de ort hodoxa, 111.15 (P.G. 94, 1060) with
PaniWear: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 107
of the twentieth century there was a furious controversy on
the so-called I of Christ.44 Tellingly, this was already a ques
tion at the dawn of christian humanism in the beginning of
the twelfth century.45 To endow Jesus with a human person
ality seemed to deprive him of his divinity. The problem, as
is often the case, lies with the unexamined premises. In or
der to ascertain the unity of Jesus Christ, the first Christian
councils concurred in declaring that in Christ there was one
single person (which could only be the divine second person
of the Trinity) and two natures (the human and the divine),
which obviously require two wills so as to preserve human
freedom. But the moment that the humanness of Christ was
stressed and its autonomy recognized (otherwise we could not
consider him a Man), the problems were compounded. If the
I of Christ is the divine person and at the same time Jesus
had a full human consciousness, how could a divine omni
scient consciousness coexist with his human consciousness?
The subleties of such a theology are fascinating and amusing.
We are not entering into the controversy.
It is instructive to learn when the question of the hu
man consciousness of Christ became a problem. Within an
arpersonalistic ontology the issue could not arise. With the
birth of individualism and the philosophies inaugurated by
Descartes and Kant, the issue became philosophically insol
uble. If Christ was a human individual, he could not be, at
the same time, a divine individual. The sola fide was the only
answer. But the intellectual apartheid of such a fides could
not last long and the issue became a burning one. Who is this
Christ? The theology of the post-enlightenment throws the
question back to Jesus. It is not, who the people say that the
whom Thomas Aquinas agrees. Cp. his De veri t at e q. 27, a. 4: Humana
natura in Christo erat velut quoddam organum divinitatis.
44Cp. Xiberta (1954); Galtier (1939), (1947), (1954); Prente (1951).
4SCp. Santiago-Otero (1970).
108 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Son of Man is? (Mt XVI.13), but who do yourself say you
To sum it up. If Man is a person (and not an individual),
sharing in the self-understanding of the other is not impos
sible, but has its limits. The I understands the other all the
more the more this other is a Thou; and this other becomes
all the more a Thou, the more it is known and loved by the
I. The ancient disciplina arcani that only the initiated could
understand (and thus participate in the ritual) is. related to
what we are saying. For a similar reason, Christian faith was
traditionally required of the person beginning the study of
For those for whom Jesus Christ has become a Thou there
can be a certain participation in what Christian scripture calls
the Spirit of Christ (Jn XIV.26; XVI.13), and thus they can
have a certain knowledge of Jesus Christ (Cp. I Cor. 11.16
and even I Jn V.20).
But this knowledge has its dangers which should not be
ignored: hallucinations and pathological imaginations of all
sorts. It also has limits: the Thou shares consciousness with
the I, but both are distinct and cannot be reduced to one.
This is advaita, non-dualistic. The history of mysticism shows
many examples of false and unsound confusions. The I and
the Thou are not just interdependent, but interindependent,
as in the Trinity.
We will never penetrate fully into another individual con
sciousness precisely because each of us shares that very con
sciousness in a unique way.
This is our question. But we have still to present a third
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 109
(c) Adhyatmik46
We wish to know Jesus. We said that there was only one
door into the intimacy of a being: to investigate the traces left
by words and deeds. If we open that door and penetrate the
individuals sanctum sanctorum, are we not violating sacred
boundaries and projecting our own awareness into somebody
elses sacred property? Under two conditions such a method
is legitimate: that we are conscious of what we are doing, and
ask permission for such an incursion. This was the approach
of our first type of anthropology which is suspiciously sim
ilar to scientific experiment. (Experimental psychology).
We said also that we do not need to force the door be
cause personal consciousness is not an enclosure but a com
mon ground where human beings find their communion being
together and interacting. What we then need is to share the
same ideals, ultimately to love, which will enable us to com
mune because we already participate in the same personal
structure of reality. This was our second approach which
is significantly similar to (deep) psychological observation.
But there is also a third approach, that of sharing not just
ideas and ideals, but Being. Does not Christian Scripture and
Tradition insist that we have to have the same sentiments as
Christ, be one with him, and be transformed into him? This
is the way of experience the mystical method.
Needless to say, we understand the word mystical as re
lated to the immediate vision of the third eye of the twelfth
century scholastics. It goes also without saying that mystical
experience cannot displace the reason or the senses. The oculi
46We use on purpose this and other words of an until now foreign
culture to the judeo-christian tradition. Not only cultures stifle when
closed; also religions. We use the word adhyatmik in the sense not of
Simkhya (as a third type of sorrows the internal ones) but of VedS.nta
as relating to the Self ( dt man) \ as concerning an integral anthropology
in which real Man is considered in all its dimensions, as sat-purusa.
110 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
fidei, mentis et sensus belong together. Indeed, this integra
tion is the task of contemporary philosophy. An intercultural
approach is here crucial. Our study is an effort in this direc
We started by asking, how can we get to know Jesus? We
then asked, how can we know another individual or another
person. Our implicit assumption was that knowledge is our
private act by which we come to know others. What if knowl
edge were not primarily our individual property or activity,
but something in which we participate? Reflection would then
be not consciousness that my ego knows, but awareness that
I share in knowledge, that knowledge is bestowed upon me.
Commenting on Scripture Richard, of Saint Victor, ex
pressing a belief of more than one tradition, wrote that love
is the source of awareness, that once we are aware of some
thing, contemplation emerges, and from this contemplation
knowledge originates.47
Millennia earlier, this insight had been the epitome of
many a civilisation. Know yourself, greek wisdom said,
echoed by the Christian mystical tradition.48 Know your Self
reemphasizes the Indie tradition: the Self which is your true
Self and not precisely your self, not yours, and only when
it ceases to be yours it will emerge as the Self which is, to
47Jn XIV.21. This sentence, paradoxically enough, seems to give pre-
eminence to praxis and from there to love: He who has (received, ac
cepted) my precepts and follows them, he is who loves me; and lie who
loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and mani
fest myself to him (He, the Man, male or female). Ex dilectione itaque
manifestatio et ex manifestatione contemplatio et ex contemplatione cog-
nitio. Richard of St. Victor, De t ri ni t at e, Prolog. (PL 196, 888c). The
knowledge is certainly a cognitio ad vitam aeternam according to Jn
XVI 1.3. The text adds: Sed sicut in fide totius boni inchoatio, sic in
cognitione totius boni consummatio atque perfectio ( Whereas in faith
there is the beginning of every good thing, we find in knowledge the
fullness and perfection of it) id. (889 A/ B) .
48Cp. Haas (1971) for a detailed description of this tradition.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
be sure, your Self (cp. Mt XVI.24; Lk IX.23).
This means that true knowledge is not of any object.
Hence, if we convert Jesus into the object of our knowledge,
we may gain a fragile objective knowledge of an individual
called Jesus, but we shall have deformed the self-knowledge
of Jesus, who did not know himself as an object, and we
shall not participate in his self-knowledge. And if Man is
characterized by self-knowledge, as long as we do not share
in the self-knowledge of that Man we shall not have known
that Man. You cannot know the knower of knowing says
one Upanisad (BU III.4.2). Whereby should one know the
knower? asks further (BU II.4.14). He, the dtman, is not
so, and not s o . . .But whereby should one know the knower?
says the same Upanisad a little later (B.U IV.5.15).
The Upanisads teach that if we start by the hunting of an
object, there will be no end to it: more and more objects will
appear in our horizon, and specialization will go on and on
without end. Besides, they warn us, this objective knowledge
is not that (knowledge knowing) which everything is known;
and this is the question: whereby can one know it? (BU
II.4.14). The answer cannot be found by following Descartes
Regulae, for even assuming that we could succeed in know
ing the knower, by this very fact the knower would cease to
be the knower and would become the known known to us
and for us. We would have reified the subject, converted it
into an object. And our question was about the subject.
There is however a way to know the knower. An accepted
English word is realization. The upanisadic answer is to be
come the knower to realize it. We are not far from what ap
parently Jesus is telling his disciples: Overcome any fear and
become what I am, be what I am, eat me, remain in me, . . .
Tat tvam asi is the ultimate upanisadic injunction: that,
you are; discover yourself as a thou, as the thou which says
ahambrahmdsmi: I am brahman. This can only be truly said
112 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
once one has realized that dtman (is) brahman. The three
personal pronouns are here at play. All three are required
for the complete realization.49 A Spanish expression says
it poetically: el camino ms corto pasa por las estrellas,
the shortest way (between two persons, two hearts) passes
through the stars, which is how I would understand a cryp
tic upanisadic text: He revealed himself threefold: sa tredhd
dtmdnarn vyakuruta (BU 1.2.3).
The knowledge of the other is not presented here as knowl
edge of the another. It is simply knowledge, the knowledge
that dawns when one becomes what one knows, what one
should know: That is the dtman in you, which resides in ev
erything (BU III.4.2). There is no question here of invading
intimacy or objectifying the supposedly other. The other
has become your Self. Is it not written: Love your neighbour
as your Self?
This is what in one form or another practically all mys
tical schools have stressed. There is only full knowledge by
participation, by reaching identity with the known, and this
is more than just an epistemic activity. To come to know Je
sus is not just to gain information about the son of Mary, not
even about what it means to be the Son of God (Harnack
in this sense was right). To come to know Jesus is a mystical
act the highest performance of the human spirit.
To sum up. If we share a human nature and this nature
has an intellectual facet, self-knowledge is not only knowl
edge of our respective egos, but sharing in knowledge (in the
knowledge of the self as subjective genitive). A monistic
worldview will say that this knowledge is not possible as long
as we are not just pure knowledge. A monotheistic worldview
will maintain the privilege of a Supreme Being and grant us
only an asymptotic and analogous knowing process. A trini
tarian vision will grant both identity and difference. We may
49Cp. Panikkar (1977/ XXV), pp. 696 sq.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 113
know and become the other in as much as we share in the
same reality, but reality being irreducible to unqualified one
ness we shall never lose our uniqueness and mystery. To
be sure,.the other in this experience is not an aliud. It is the
thou in polar relation with the I. No one knows the Son ex
cept the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son
and any one to whom the Son wishes to reveal (him) (Mt
It should be clear by now that our enterprise is not a
problem to be solved, but a life to be lived..
* * *
Let us recapitulate.
We want to know the self-experience of the Man Jesus,
we dare to speak about the mysticism of Jesus the Christ.
If he is just another historical individual who lived in
Palestine two millennia ago, we shall have to follow the cur
rent exegetical method. It will be very useful in situating
the context of that individual and is a necessary corrective
against projecting our own assumptions onto a non-existent
background. But we would remain respectfully at the pre
scribed geographical and historical distance: Jesus, a fasci
nating and intriguing Stranger, an it. We may or may not
find that It is the Way. A doctrine.
/ / i n our consciousness we discover ourselves as persons,
i.e. as I-Thou polarities, the reality of the thou will disclose
itself (thouself) to us more and more in the measure that our
intimacy is illumined by the loving intellect: Jesus; a living
and mysterious companion, a Thou. We may find or not
that Thou art the Truth A personal encounter.
If in our process of knowing ourselves we touch an inner
most Self into which our ego has been transformed, i.e. if we
become or realize that Self, we will discover in it that very
figure which triggered our search: Christ, a symbol of that
114 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Self which, without it, we would not dare to identify our
selves with, the /. We may find or not that I am the
Life A mystical experience.
The three disclaimers after the three dashes of our last
paragraphs are not an anti-climax or expression of a personal
fear. They perform a threefold function.
First, our considerations do not elicit an apodictic con
clusion. They are not syllogisms. There is place for freedom.
Second, our reading is not the only possible one. There is
room for other interpretations.
Third, our meditation may have gone astray in spite of my
convictions and good will. There is a welcome for corrections.
* * *
This long introduction paves the way, and at the same time
tells us that the three methods are not only legitimate, but
that they are relative to their respective world views. Since
we are aware of this pluralism we will try to complement one
method by the other.
meinate en emoit
kago en hymin
Manete in me,
et ego in vobis
Dwell in me,
as I in you
Jn XV.3
In a topic like this the questioner is not partially, but totally
involved although not committed to defend any party
line. My only commitment is to what I experience as true
to put it briefly, for this very statement is not an uncrit
ical one: It is by experience that Men come to science and
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
art.50 But my experience is not infallible when it comes to its
expressions, which need to be open to critique and dialogue.
My involvement has to be total since the question is an
existential one. It asks critically what is the ultimate sense
of life.51 This question about the ultimate meaning of life
is the homeomorphic equivalent to the question about the
identity of Jesus Christ. When we ask who is Jesus Christ
we expect an answer that will disclose to us much more than
the biographical data of just an individual. Who was Akbar
or Moctezuma are important questions, but we do not relate
them directly with the ultimate meaning of life, as we would
do with the thrust behind the question about Jesus Christ.
The answer may be disappointing or different from what
one expects, but the question is charged with that expec
tation. Expectation does not amount tp presumption, since
our question is a critical one and we should be prepared for
any answer. As to the question why asking about Akbar or
Moctezuma could not have the same momentous weight, the
answer is that it could, but that in fact it has not had it.
Christian imperialism? It could be, if we were to forget (as it
has been often the case) three qualifications to our issue:
(a) The question about anybody triggers the search for
the mystery of Man and of reality and in this respect the ques
tion about Jesus is just one example of the question about the
mystery of any person. And, in fact, from Homer to Glenon,
in the western world, there have been many such icons. Jesus
50apobainei d epi st m kat tchn di ts empeirias tots anthrpois
( Homini bus autem sci enti a et ars per experienti am evenit) Ari st . , Me t
1.1 (981 a).
51 . . . l e Christ* parat chapper tout essai de neutralit et donc
dobjectivit. ( . . . ) Le Christ, ici, est en quelque sort la somme j amai s
t ot ali se de t out es les i nt erprt ati ons ou perceptions du Christ qui peu
vent se dire en l humanit. Bellet (1990) p. 23. The entire book could
be read as a Cinquime vangile, qui s appuie sur les textes, mais dun
appui sans appui, puisque la parole est livre sa libert ncessaire (p.
is just one of them central for some, irrelevant for others.
(b) The fact is that the historical relevance in time, space
and events (for good and for ill) shown by Christs impact on
human life makes him, if not the only one, certainly, a rather
important case. Furthermore, in the general climate of west
ern culture, Christian or not, history counts. The centrality of
history is probably pre-christian and owes a great deal to the
Semitic mind, but Christians have been the main heirs of the
Abrahamic traditions even to the extent of elaborating a com
plete Heilsgeschichte which claims that history culminates in
a history of salvation.52 At any rate history, including the
western way of reckoning time itself, has become the crite
rion of reality largely on account of that very Jesus Christ as
he has been interpreted.53 In this sense the question about
Jesus Christ is different from the question about Ashoka, to
cite another name.
(c) The very question about the importance of Ashoka,
or about anyone for that matter, is already a question con
ditioned by the importance given to history by the western
reflection on the relevance of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the
importance of the historical Jesus, dependent as it is from the
centrality of history, is not synonymous with the relevance of
Christ for the peoples of the world. But we should not pursue
this thought further.
We should be clear about our assumption that the question
about Jesus is important to our lives. We cannot dismiss our
prejudices altogether, but we should be aware of them and
ready to eliminate them should they prove to be an obstacle
52 Cp. my criticism in Panikkar (1975) 1.
S31 have stated elsewhere that the new fad of saying or writii\g CE
meaning Common Era makes things much worse, since Before or After
Christ is a much more neutral point of reference than qualifying this era
as the common one when it is not for Chinese, jews, tamils, muslims and
most of the peoples of the world. If Christian imperialism is bad, western
colonialism is worse.
116 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 117
to the finding of truth. Amicus mihi Plato . . . But it is
undeniable that the interest of many a reader, and certainly
mine, about the mystical experience of the Man of Galilee
is not because of sheer curiosity about a certain individual
(respectable and unique as every person is), but because that
Man intrigues us (and others) in a special way, and we surmise
or believe that his existence is of capital importance for our
lives. It is not an indifferent topic.
* * *
We said that involvement does not amount to commitment.
We may become disappointed and go away because that Man
may not have words of eternal life for me, or because the very
words eternal life have become meaningless or even a lie.
But the question about the identity of Jesus Christ claims
to be an ultimate question. And, I repeat that the answer
may be negative. We ask who was that somebody because
that somebody has carried significant weight in the history
of human life on earth, and has a central meaning still for
me and many others. We ought to examine critically if those
expectations are justified; but to ignore these expectations
would not do justice to the very question which is charged
with twenty centuries of history. A context of twenty centuries
is the minimum, since for many the very question is pregnant
with four millennia (since Abraham), and for others it spans
the entire context of human history since the beginning of the
universe. The question about Jesus Christ is not an innocent
question indeed.54
This awareness makes impossible to bypass methodologi
cally a reference to the one who asks the question. Although
541 have often said, somewhat polemically and within a certain context,
that I refuse to owe my allegiance to a sect which has existed only for
2000 years in a restricted part of the world. I do not deny the scandal of
historical concreteness, but it is in the concrete that I find the universal.
118 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
I do not want to be autobiographical, I cannot deny my con
victions nor should I repress them. This implies that my
approach may be a combination of the three methods inas
much as I am convinced of their validity. I do not dispense
with form-criticism, historical criticism, knowledge of canon
ical and apocryphal texts, orthodox and heterodox inter
pretations, and the like. At the same time I do not accept
the hunter epistemology of researchers who imagine them
selves without any presupposition, and shoot at anything that
moves. Nor do I proceed pietistically, or from a sentimental
vision of Jesus and a one-sided evaluation of history. Chris
tian history is not a model of righteousness.
Our question is not pure speculation, nor a mere theologu-
menon. For me to be a Christian means to have encountered
Christ personally; and to be a philosopher (or theologian if
one so prefers) means thinking critically about this experience
(in this case). The authentic Christian is not so much the fol
lower of an ideology or the believer in the belief of others, but
the one who has encountered the reality of Christ.55 Without
this encounter it all remains a superstructure ( adhydsa). The
meaning of any Christian sacrament, according to orthodox
formulation, is an encounter with Christ. Let us not forget
that the grace of Christ is Christ himself, and that the opus
operatum of catholic theology is not magic but the opus op-
erantis Christi.
Now, this encounter is all pure imagination or a mere
meeting of ideas or perhaps ideals if it is not a meeting of
persons, a personal encounter, i.e., a meeting in the deepest
core of our existence, an encounter which embraces all of our
being many mystics say a falling in love. But all this would
remain an illusion if this encounter were not possible, if the
551 have corrected my spontaneous phrase person of Christ* to make
the statement as neutral as possible. Cp. Frei (1975) for an important
analysis of this Presence of Christ.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 119
true Christ were only a figure of the past or a construction of
our fantasy, or at best a remembrance of something gone by.
The encounter is not with the Messiah or Son of the living
God recalling the petrine confession (Mt XVI.15), but with
the You ( thou art) of Christ.
In brief, this encounter is feasible if communication and
communion is possible in that deepest core of our being: the
person. Here we have another example of what I call the
circulus vitalis against the circulus vitiosus, the vital break
through against the vicious begging of the question. It could
well be that we have such an idea of person because we have
gone through this experience of a personal encounter. At any
rate, we say that this encounter is personal, because person is
precisely this type of relationship. An isolated individual (if it
were to exist) would not be a person. Yet person is our most
intimate reality, the most mysterious. It is incommunicable,
because it is (already) communion.
Here is where I should apply to myself the theory of the
pisteuma. It is easier to speak of it in the third person. I can
not describe the meaning of Durga for a believer in Durga
if I do not reach the pisteuma of the believer, which may be
different from the noema of the onlooker. Similarly, I will not
give a pToper description of Jesus Christ if I put in epoche
my belief in that symbol. In confessing my belief I shall auto
matically avoid any possible absolutization such as believers
in reason are often prone to make when they speak of pure
reason. I will constantly remember that it is my belief.
* * *
All this needed to be clarified at the outset because it both
justifies and relativizes the choice of texts.56
58Tellingly enough, the excellent chapter by Dodd (1970) on the Per
sonal traits of Jesus (49-64) describes some of Jesus observations re
garding things and people but not the utterances concerning himself. Cp.
The choice of the three texts or groups of sayings shows
already a certain preference. I could defend the choice by say
ing that Christian tradition has considered them to be cen
tral. But here again this understanding of tradition depends
already on an option even if it follows the historical rou
tine of what scholars call the Great Church. I am sufficiently
aware of the dark historical facets and manoeuvres of that
Church so as to be able to overcome such a routine. The
texts are certainly not the only ones one could chose, but
they yield a certain picture of the mystical experience that
the Man Jesus Christ may have had according to tradition
notwithstanding value judgements of any type on exegetical
remarks situating and grading the texts.
My comments claim to be valid even if the historical Jesus
did not utter those words or was not the second person of
the Trinity. I takehim to be at any rate a prototypos of the
human condition. It should be clear by now, that if I speak
of experience and of encounter with Christ this cannot be a
meeting with a Jesus of the past. It would then be merely
remembrance or hallucination.
By saying this I am in no way ignoring the immense work
of exegetical analysis, nor am I contesting traditional ortho
doxies. I am not even attempting to situate Jesus Christ in an
Asian context, saying for instance that he is the sadguru, the
(or a) jivanmukta, the supreme satydgrahi, advaitin or yogi,
the incarnate Prajapati, cit, highest avatdra, ddi-purusa, di
vine sakti, tempiternal aum or the like.57 Nor am I compar
ing Christ with key-figures in other religions.58 Having delved
also Kahlefeld (1984). ( Christentum ist eine Beziehung auf die konkrete
Gestalt Jesu Christi). Cp. also the somewhat dated and yet valuable
books by Felder (1953) and Graham (1947) both of which have a chap
ter on The Personality of Jesus* and Felder even a subchapter on The
Interior Life of Jesus.
57Cp. Sugirtharajah (1993).
5SCp. as mere examples Robinson; J. A. T (1979), Fries (1981), Venkate-
120 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 121
into most of those subjects elsewhere I am trying here a much
humbler, although riskier enterprise: a personal exercise in
what the ancients said fides quaerens intellectum, convinced
as I am that faith is the life of Man (Habac II, 4; Rom. I, 17;
Gal. Ill, 11; Hebr X, 38) or that faith is the way to liberation
( Upadesashasr\ I, l ) . 59 If you do not believe you will not
survive (or understand says another traditional interpreta
tion of a probably more down-to-earth original Hebrew text
(Is VII.9).
Having said this much, I discover immediately that I am
not alone either in the experience, or in the interpretation of
it.60 In fact most of the genuinely mystical interpretations of
Christ point in the same direction. There is also a revealing
similarity with the affirmations of scores of philosophers and
sages from other traditions without affirming now that
they all say the same5(as of a Kantian thing in itself).
Be this as it may, it is further worth pointing out that, al
though Christianity claims to be based on the person of Jesus,
except for some ontological and cosmological interpretations
of Jesus Christ, during the first centuries (the councils of
Nicea, Chalcedon and Constantinople being the most repre
sentative)^ most Christian self-understanding is based on the
historical narratives of the words and actions of Jesus, as
interpreted by tradition, rather than on ones own personal
consciousness. We should recall once again the almost unan
imous tradition of most religions that faith or initiation is
required for the authentic study of sacred doctrines. How
ever, in the modern Christian tradition there is a strong wind
sananda (1983), Koyama (1984), Knitter (1985), Thomas M.M. (1987),
Ishanand (1988), Dupuis (1989), Keenan (1989), Moran (1992), Lefebure
59 Cp. the important statements on i raddha (faith) by the Bhagavad
Gxt: III, 31; VI, 37, 47; VII, 21- 22; IX, 23; XVII, 1-17; etc.
60Cp. the emerging non-western christologies in recent times, some of
them mentioned in the bibliography. Cp. also Amaladass (1981).
122 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
of objectivity which has dispelled the mystical awareness and
blown it to the outskirts of Christian life. The christic faith,
which began as a religiousness of the Word, evolved more and
more, sociologically speaking, into a religion of the Book. In-
telligenti pauca.
Whoever that young rabbi might have been or whatever
self-consciousness he might have had, the important and de
cisive thing was supposed to be the belief in what had been
written down about him, not only in the first (canonical)
documents, but also in the subsequent (conciliar and for
some even, papal) writings. And, to be sure, in spite of many
divergent ideas, there is a certain consensus in acknowledg
ing what he did and said. All the problems seemed to have
been solved for a time by saying that he was the Son of God,
or at any rate an extraordinary prophet, an instrument of
the divinity for a cosmic and historical role. In a word, his
function, his doctrine, his example, seemed to be what really
matters. Christian faith became almost synonymous with ac
knowledging^ set of facts and doctrines. The living figure of
Jesus Christ was wrapped around and protected by a heavy
doctrinal garb, like those traditional south-European Madon
nas almost buried under heavy vestments, jewels and flowers.
The recent Roman Catholic Catechism seems to be a case in
point. I am contesting neither the legitimacy nor the truth-
contents of those belief-systems. I am only undertaking an
other pilgrimage, or rather trying to be a fellow-traveller on
the human path who this time has unloaded his rucksack.
To put it differently. It is customary today to speak about
a christology from above in contrast to a christology from
bellow. I shun labels, but if at all I would call this study a
christology from within well knowing that the reign of
the heavens is entos: neither among nor inside but be
tween us. For this reason I am submitting my experience
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 123
to the dialogue and critique of the us, the you of the com
One did not need to be overcurious over the Man Jesus
since he was considered to be ultimately a divine being. This
attitude was understandable as long as the Christian emphasis
was on theocentrism. Jesus remained simply an instrument
of God: he raised him from the dead, he inspired him regard
ing what to say and what to do, he was behind him when
performing miracles. After all, Jesus said that he came to do
the will of the Father and that he spoke only what the Father
wanted him to say. Listening to him the Christian obeys the
will of God. What else do we need? Is it not unhealthy cu
riosity to scrutinize what the Man Jesus felt and experienced
apart from what he plainly said and did?
We should not forget this warning. We may feel the need
of psychoanalysing Jesus. We cannot forbid to do this; and it
is legitimate. Yet, we should then not speak of his mystical
awareness, but of his psychological make-up. This is all the
more an important caution because the increased interest in
psychology, the weakening of a certain image of God, and the
growing fascination with the Christ figure outside ecclesias
tical precincts seem to justify this desire to know about the
Man Jesus and what impelled him to say and do what he said
and did.61 What did he think he was?
We may let him stretch on the couch, but we may also
walk with him and ask him where he lives (Jn 1.38), i.e. from
where does he speak. We follow this second path as a via
media between experimental psychology and deductive theo
logy. Yet, we know that he was rather elusive.62 If lives of
61A reference here to Drewermann (1984/1985), (1987/1988) seems
unavoidable. In no way should we minimize the importance of the theo
logical controversy around his ideas. Cp. Benedikt-Sobel (1992).
62 I do indeed think that we can now know almost nothing concern
ing the life and personality of Jesus. Bultmann (1985) 8. This much
misunderstood quotation should not be taken to mean that Bultmann
124 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Jesus continue to multiply uncontrollably today, is it all cu
riosity or a mere literary device? Or is it because his figure
is still inspiring both for good and for ill? Jesus remains an
intriguing figure.63
The western Christian and post-christian traditions might
perhaps be interested in such approaches as the many
modern novels about Jesus show. But we happen to approach
the figure of Christ, not with psychological curiosity, or apolo
getic aims, or even theological intentions (to resurrect Anus
ideas, for instance) but we try to approach him from the In
die perspective, which almost unconsciously asks what sort
of divinely-intoxicated person or what type of religious hero
was that historical figure, who has triggered one of the most
prominent movements in the last two millennia.64 Let us not
forget our context. What he did, we roughly know, what he
might have said we have also heard, what has come out of
all this lies in front of us. Is it not a legitimate question to
ask simply once again who he was? We know what Christians
have said concerning who he was.65 What did he himself think
denies ail knowledge of the historical Jesus. What cannot be known is
the inner life, the heroic struggle, which so fascinated the earlier inter
preters. Baird (1977) 39.
63 We have already alluded to the interest of Christ in a wider context.
Cp. Stckli (1991) for a Steiner-approach, Schiwy (1990) for a New-Age
thoughtful presentation and Massa (1995) for short contributions on a
mystical understanding of Christ.
64The 32 pages article on Jesus Christ by Geiselmann (1962) ends with
the following: Was wir hier vor uns haben darber sollten wir uns
nicht tuschen , ist nur das spezifisch abendlndische Verstndnis von
Jesus Christus. Vielleicht werden uns andere Seiten an Christus aufge
hen und neue, den Abendlndern nicht zugngliche Tiefen erschlossen,
wenn einmal stliches, asiatisches Empfinden und Denken das Mysterium
Christus ergrnden, p. 770. This quotation may be supplemented by
the so often cited sentence of Keshub Chunder Sen in the middle of last
century in India: It seems that the Christ that has come to us is an
Englishman . . . .
65Artists have often a deeper intuition: Whoever he was or was not,
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 125
that he was? How did he bear his human consciousness?66 He
asked about who people said that the Son of Man was. We
throw back the question and ask: What do you say of your
self? Who do you say you are? Or should we be satisfied by
his elusive answer to John the Baptist? (Mt XI.2-6).67 We
should here underscore the importance of the newly emerg
ing feminist christologies. They offer not only a badly needed
corrective to patriarchal (and kyriocentric) interpretations,
but also an essential complement to christological studies.68
Is it perhaps a blasphemy to dare enter into the personal
intimacy of that Christ?
* * *
When all is said and done, we have still to make a final leap.
It is not a merely theoretical exercise, nor an act of the will.
It is an experiential and existential plunge into the depths
of reality, into what Paul calls the depths, the abyss of the
Godhead (Rom 8.39; Eph 3.18; I Cor 2.9.10). We could call
it the Christian mystical experience.
whoever he thought he was, . . . he was a man once, whatever else he
may have been. And he had mans face, a human face. Buechner (1974)
begins his pictorial book with splendid photographs throughout ages and
66Sed pnmum quod tunc (ad primum usum rationis) homini cogitan-
dum occurit, est deliberare de s e i p s o . . . D. Thom. Sum. theol. III, q.
89, a. 6. And again: primum quod occurit homini discretionem habenti
est quod de $e ipso cogitet, ad quern alia ordinet sicut ad finem (ib.
ad 3). My emphasis the first thing which happens to Man (when he
reaches the first use of reason) is that he ponders about himself . . . .
And again: the first thing that happens to a Man coming of age is to
think about himself so that he organizes all the other things (as means)
to his end. Could Jesus be an exception to this?
67I should acknowledge the excellent Christologies of Kasper (1974),
Sobrino (1976), Rovira Belloso (1984), Gonzalez Faus (1984), which nev
ertheless do not consider the fact that christology could be relevant to
other cultures and religions as well as nowadays Dupuis (1994) does.
68Cp. as a single example, Schussler Fiorenza (1990) with abundant
126 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Christs experience was his personal experience. If I re
late it to ray own personal experience it is because I have
been told about his words, so that the verbalization of my
experience takes the form, and uses the language that I have
learned from his impact upon me. It remains nevertheless my
personal experience. I do not sit silent behind his couch. Nor
does he stretch himself there behind me. I go to visit him
in his dwelling place and we converse. I have a personal ex
perience about my own identity. When I try to expresss it,
I might have been influenced by what I learned, and I may
use Christian or even Christs vocabulary and perhaps by
this very fact give the impression that I pretend to re-enact
his experience. It is simply how I actually interpret my own
experience. On the one hand, having meditated on Christs
words and deeds, they may have shaped my experience or
given me the frame wherein to express it. On the other hand,
the personal experience of my own identity may have found
in Christs example an image and even a model of my own
personal experience. I am assuming here neither that it is
his grace which made me participant in his experience (as
Christian scripture suggests) nor that I have had it totally
independently on my own. Hypothesis non Jingo.
Having acknowledged this inextricable relationship, and
disregarding now the question whether I am also capable of
expressing my own personal experience in other languages,
or whether other traditions have also shaped at least the in
terpretation of my experience, I shall describe my own per
sonal identity as a hermeneutical clue to understand Christs
experience from whatever sources we deem appropriate. We
should not put aside critical awareness.
Wh.en awakening to reality, when simply awakening to
self-consciousness, I find myself piercing through all the layers
of being which I discover as veils. These veils reveal to me the
shape of what I appear to be, but conceal at the same time
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 127
what I am. In this conscious pilgrimage towards the core of
what I am, I do not find any ground, any resting place on
anything, either in me or present to my own consciousness.
1 cannot identify myself with my body or with my soul or
with what I am today, was yesterday, or shall be tomorrow.
I discover myself above, beyond, outside, or simply different
from anything I can be conscious of. My own ground is an
abyss, an Abgrund7(or even Ungrund). Quite simply I do not
discover or find myself. I may or not share the conviction that
because I do not come from myself, I must have come from
somewhere else. This may be a legitimate logical conclusion,
but it is not an experience. The experience of contingency
is tangential (as the word says), not transcendent. What it
touches (from tangere) touching us together7( cum tangere),
cannot be, by definition, the untouchable (transcendence). It
is rather the experience that what I am7is not the creation7
of somebody else nor has it an external origin, but that it
shares in, is part of that same flow which we call reality.69
Nobody can experience transcendence. Nobody can see God7.
What I truly am cannot be something that I am not. All that /
have, I have received from my parents, ancestors, culture,
earth, and so on, from an evolutionistic past, or karma, or
God. But what I am is surely not identical with what I have.
The me, I have (it), and all the rest along with it. The I, I
am (it) although I may not know what (it) is7. This latter
is not even the same question.70
I may have to confess that it might not have occurred to
me to ask who I am, if others had not prompted me to ask
it, thus inciting me to search for an answer. I don7t know.
69Dicitur autem creatura fluvius (says the traditional Thomas
Aquinas), quia fluit semper de esse ad non esse per corruptionem, et de
non-esse ad esse per generationem. Sermones fest i vi , 61 ( The created
being is called a river, because it always flows from being to non-being
by disintegration, and from non-being to being by coming to life).
70Cp. Panikkar (1986/10).
128 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Self-alienation is rampant in onr days.
Since my youth I was given the answer that it was God
who created me, but since that time, although I was not
able to formulate it until later on, I had the experience that
this very me5 was not really I. I have a me, but I am not
identical with that me. My I seems to stand beyond that
me. But of that I, which is in some way inseparable from my
me, nothing could be said. I felt responsible for all that the
me did, but not completely accountable for what this me
was (or is). All has been given to me my ideas, my ways
of reaching intelligibility, besides, of course, my time, space,
birth, inclinations, and what not. No scientific ansWer is here
sufficient. It all may be the fruit of the total evolution of the
human species that has come to be me, but all this does not
yet reach or uncover the I. The I is not the me, although
the me uses, sometimes abuses, and other moments usurps
the I.
I have long meditated upon a passage from the Rg Veda
What I am I do not know.
I wonder secluded, burdened by my mind.
When the Firstborn of Truth has come to me
I receive a share in that selfsame Word.
But a commentary here is out of question.
A paradox appears. The more my me acts, the less the I
is active, the more the I acts, the less the me intervenes. The
explanation seems obvious: I cannot say, nor know what I am
because the possible predicates can never be, qua predicates,
identified with the subject. My self-consciousness can never
be totally objectified. The I is prior or superior to the knowing
what or who I am. Making a long story truly short, I came
to experience me as the thou of the I. The I moves me as
a thou, the thou is the agoray the ksetray the field of the I.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 129
My task was more to listen than to speak. I could also sense
that my so-called prayer was more an allowing to be led than
asking for help, more a reaction to a quandary put to me
than a query presented to somebody else. To call God the
Thou seemed to me, with all due respect, unconvincing
and egocentric. God, if at all, is the I and me the thou.
Yet in moments of difficulty, of suffering, and of trial in my
life I spontaneously began to say You, God, Father, Divinity
and, of course, most often: Christ, my ista-devatd.
On a second round, as it were, the roles inverted: the in-
timior intimo meo of Augustin, IbnArabi, Thomas, Eckhart,
Calvin and so many others, began to become real. My lit
tle me was not relevant, not ultimate. I discovered an echo
in a cryptic sentence of Paul: It is not my me that counts.
(Act XX.24). The I was elusive, but a more real self appeared
which was neither my ego nor a divine I. My true self could
be neither a simple rational animal nor a divine being. A
mesites (I Tim II.5) was dawning within, a mediator (not an
intermediary) between the infinite (whose traditional name is
God, Transcendence, the absolute I . . . ) and my ego, my me.
To my mind, and heart, of course, came all the texts which
describe the indwelling of Christ in the deepest core of my be
ing, and similar statements by great spiritual masters of other
traditions. I could also personally re-enact the four adverbs
of the Council of Chalcedon,71 the theanthropy of Boulgakov
and the theosis of so many Fathers of the Church. Should I
say that it is the experience of divine immanence? One could
call it also the Advaitic experience. The alluded mediator is
anthropos Jesus Christ as Second Adam in whom the en
tire human nature is represented (Cp. I Cor XV.22 and Denz
629). I experienced the inner energy, grace, power that
711 experience the human relation with the divine to be, not in hy
postatic union, of course, inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, insepara-
biliter (without confusion, immovable, indivisible, inseparable).
130 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
was my inmost self, and that made me do things which are
otherwise inexplicable (although psychology can always in
terfere) offering explanations in two dimensions only. But I
am speaking of memory and giving already too much of an
I am aware that these confessions make it easy for critics
to say that I am reading into the Gospel instead of decod
ing them objectively. Besides unearthing the fallacy of pure
objectivity I would retort that the argument turns in my
favour, since the fact that a simple Man like me (and so many
others) could have such experiences, makes more believable
that the Man Jesus Christ could have had them albeit in a
far more eminent way. Omnis cognitio est per aliquam simil-
itudinem (Thomas, Sum. theol. I, q. 14.a 11, ad 3), as is also
said by Aristotle and Kant.
* * *
Before we turn to the alleged insights of Jesus the Christ, let
us exemplify our method by analysing a sentence which we
may suppose has been uttered by a being like me: I am an
elephant who flies in the skies.
At first sight I cannot understand such a proposition. I
cannot re-enact the statement that I am a flying elephant
that a human being is an elephant that flies. I have to
acknowledge that the sentence is unintelligible to me. True
understanding of a sentence amounts to discovering the intel-
ligiblity of the sentence, i.e. to being convinced of the truth
of what one understands.72 I am then bound to limit myself
to affirming that a certain human individual, apparently in
his senses, makes such a (for me preposterous) affirmation. I
project my confidence on another person and trust that for
her the sentence has a certain meaning hidden to me.
72Cp. Panikkar (1975/3) for the philosophical underpinnings of the
following paragraphs.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 131
If I still try to decipher what that person may possibly
mean when making such a statement, I may come to the
following conclusions:
Although I have to confess that I have not myself acquired
such a state of consciousness; nevertheless, having studied
totemism, shamanism and other related phenomena I can
more or less figure out that a human individual may well
identify herself with an elephant and those who have ex
perienced the feelings and intelligence of those pachyderms
may agree with me and may be able to get a kind of ele
phantine consciousness, and truly affirm that she is (also)
an elephant. Stretching my empathy to the utmost I may re
enact the sentence I am an elephant, although with caution,
provisos and trepidation, because I have not abandoned my
human consciousness as well.
I will have to confess, however, that the proposition is
not totally intelligible to me, and that I can make only some
partial sense of it through empathy with somebody whom I
trust and who says I am an elephant. In short, I may be
lieve that the sentence I am an elephant may have certain
meaning for a very special human being, although I do not
fully reach that level or that stage of consciousness.
But the second part of the proposition is unacceptable
to me: flying in the skies. Here I will have to say that my
fellow-being is either dreaming or suffering an hallucination.
No real elephant, I will argue, ever flies in the skies. My hero
is certainly wrong in venturing such an affirmation. It is sim
ply senseless, and with my best will and desire to believe I will
have to conclude that the Man is either deceiving him/herself
or deceiving all of us. He/she may be a (very special) human
being with supernatural flying powers; she may identify her
self with an elephant, but not with a flying elephant, for an
elephant does not fly.
Furthermore, connecting the two parts of the sentence I
132 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
will come to the comforting suspicion that the first part is
probably also an illusion. If my noerna rejects both parts, my
pisteuma may stretch up to the first section of the sentence,
but both noma and pisteuma oblige me to reject the second
part of the statement. We cannot believe what we believe is
unbelievable even though based on the authority that Christ
is God, the Church has a divine hot-line or the magisterium
a superior type of knowledge or the like. If a thousand scrip
tures assure me that the fire does not burn, I will not believe
them, said the Mlmamsakas more than a thousand years ago.
We should distinguish between rational knowledge and
other possible kinds of knowledge, as most religious traditions
assert. But we cannot contradict ourselves. Belief*Ras to be
reasonable and reason believable. I may believe what I cannot
understand, but I cannot believe the (for me) unbelievable.
I may believe anything provided I believe it believable. Ter-
tullian may say credo quia absurdum because he believes
that the absurdum may be believable thus upsetting the
rational (natural) order. But we should stop here.
In sum, there is no point in formulating statements if we
are not able to make sense of those formulations. There is
no point in saying I and the Father are one, if the sentence
is for us apriori meaningless. And it is meaningless if we are
closed to non-sensual and non-deductible propositions. And
we shall be closed to the meaning of those propositions if our
life moves only on the sensual and purely rational levels, i.e.,
if we are insensitive to the third dimension of reality, blind
to mystical awareness.
No more need be said. At the risk of seeming to project
this experience on Jesus Christ, or rather believing that this
experience may be a shadow of Christs experience, I ap
proach what I consider the three mahdvakydni of Jesus the
73MahS (great) vkya (sentence). The Vedntic tradition has con
Paaikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 133
1. Abba, Pater!
The Text
It is almost a moot question to ask which of the texts we shall
introduce is more relevant, since everything is connected. But
most probably this first group of texts could be said to be
central to the entire Christian understanding74
(i) Abba, Father,
all things are possible to thee;
take this cup away from me.
Yet not what I will,
but what thou will
Mk XIV.36
(cp. also Mt XXV.39,
Lk XXII.42; [Jn XII.27]).
Quite a revealing duplication! Abba means father and pater
means father.75 If Jesus spoke in aramaic he may not have
reduplicated the word, but I imagine that Mark (and his
source(s)) was impelled to do this in order to render the
ambivalence of the word: on the one hand, daddy, biologi
cal father, lovable head of the family, and on the other, the
more common name for the closer and less terrifying aspect
of the Deity in many religions, including judaism, of course
densed the teaching of the Upanisads in five great sentences called
74 We give the greek only where we find it important. We sometimes
draw on more than one translation in order to show different shades of
meaning. When nothing is stated, the translation is our own, leaning of
course on the many existing versions.
75 Even without our willingness to venture on the hopeless enterprise
of dissecting the psychology of Jesus ( . . . ) begins Schillebeckx (1985)
146 in one of his considerations on Abba. Elsewhere he concludes that
Christs Abba experience is the source of his message and praxis (125).
134 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
patriarchalism not withstanding.76 After reading many doc
uments of the ancient religions, one might wonder whether
calling God Father and Mother is an anthropomorphism,
or whether, on the contrary, calling the parents father and
mother, is a theomorphism. Human fellowship with the Gods
seems sometimes closer to primordial Man than merely family
The word abba was probably kept in the first Christian
liturgies to stress the special relationship with the Divinity
which the word meant on the lips of Jesus.77 He might, as the
Gospels report, have constantly pronounced it, but it appears
only once verbatim. On other occasions pater alone appears.78
In John we have 35 times ho pater mou: my father. It is
important to remark that the only time in which the Aramaic
word is reported on the lips of Jesus is in his almost desperate
prayer at Gethsemane: pleading to be spared that time but
adding that the Fathers will be done.79
Jesus is undoubtedly convinced that God is his Father.
He speaks of God as my Father80 in a provocative way (Kit-
tel says disrespectful)81 for his own jewish tradition.82 He
76Cp. a good summary in Schrenk (1967) especially pp. 945-59, and
Quell (1967) for the AT (pp. 959-82). Cp. also Heisler (1961), pp. 464-
666; Van Der Leeuw (1956) 20 (pp. 195-201) for a few references.
77The cry Abba is here regarded as an experience of fundamental
signifiance Schrenk (1967) 1006.
78 Abba es, sin duda, la palabra teolgicamente ms densa de todo el
Nuevo Testamento writes Gonzlez de Cardenal (1975) 99 in his chapter
La invocacin Abba* y su valencia cristolgica (97-104), with many
bibliographical references. The whole work is a valuable contribution
to the Comprensin de Cristo a la luz de la categora del encuentro
79Cp. Schrenk, p. 985, for the other references. The New Testament
uses the word Father* 415 times, most often in reference to God.
80 We refrain from quoting the overwhelming number of studies on this
subject. Cp. the bibliography contained in the few works we cite.
81 Kittel (1964) 1.6.
82Cp. a summary with pre-Semitic and other sources in the very first
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
refers to him as Father in the intimacy of his prayer: in ju
bilation (Mt XI.25; Lk X.21), on the Cross (Lk XXIII.34, in
exalted prayer when facing death by being stoned (Jn XII.27,
28), in direct prayer to his Father (Jn XVII.1.5), calling him
holy or righteous Father (Jn XVII.11,25), etc.
The two other times in which the Aramaic word appears
are in the Epistles of St Paul. The context is our human
calling upon the father (Abba is a vocative). We are capable
of doing it by the power of the Spirit in the relationship of
true filiation.
(ii) For all who are guided by the Spirit of God are children
of God. The Spirit you have received is not a spirit of
serfdom leading you back into fear but a Spirit that
makes us children, enabling us to cry Abba! Father !
The same Spirit joins with our spirit in testifying that
we are Gods children; and if children, then heirs: Gods
heirs and Christs fellow-heirs, since we suffer with him
so that we may be glorified [also] with him.
(Rom 8, 14-16)
When Paul sets on our lips this cry o f Abba Pater, he affirms
that it is our being children of God that entitles us to utter
such a cry, and adds immediately that both the divine Spirit
and our spirit bear witness that God is our Father, i.e., that
we are his children. It is this witnessing of our own spirit that
emboldens us to speak about Jesus Spirit.83
The same experience is described in the third text:
article of Botterweck-Ringgren (1973), 1-19. Although Jahweh is called
Father of the people of Israel Ringgren affirms: Sonst wird Jhwh sehr
selten im AT als Vater bezeichnet (17) adding that God as father does
not have any central position in the faith of Israel (19). For the notion
of Son in Israel cp. also 16. 1.668-82.
83The astounding sentences of I Cor 11.10-16 are worth meditating for
our purpose.
136 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
(in) And because you are children, God has sent into our
hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba, Father! So
you are no longer a servant but a child, and if a child
also an heir through God.
(Gal IV.6-7)
Here is again a vital circle, a sort of perichoresis. It is be
cause we are children that God sends his Spirit, and because
God sends his Spirit we are his children. Christian theology
has seen in Christ the cause of our filiation.
The Interpretation
Two fundamental ideas emerge from those texts: Jesus calls
God his Father and empowers his disciples to do the same by
virtue of the inner working of the indwelling divine Spirit.
What does it mean?
First of all, it means what it says within the jewish tra
dition of that time which echoes the entire Semitic world
of the two previous millennia. God is Father and Fa
ther means begetter, educator, protector, ruler, lover. This
belongs undoubtedly to a patriarchal culture which we may
and should criticize. But precisely because of this patriar-
chalism the word has an inclusive meaning as giver of life.
Purified from its anthropomorphic underpinnings, it can be
interpreted as denoting source, origin, foundation as later
tradition will understand the word father when using it in the
trinitarian doctrine. It has little to do with gender or sex.84
But secondly, and strikingly, since the very beginning, as
his contemporaries noticed, Jesus stresses that God is his Fa
ther, his Daddy in such an intimate manner that Christian
tradition affirms that Jesus of Nazareth had no other Father.
Whether we can reconcile our sentence with the existence of
84 It may be for this reason that Lee (1993) writes: It appears strange
that Israel seems almost intentionally and for a long time to have avoided
calling God its Father. (p. 49)
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 137
another purely human father, not in competition with the
divine Father, is not our concern. We .are only trying to un
derstand Jesus experience. To be sure, Jesus seems to have
had a very special experience of his divine sonship.
The numerous texts in which Christ refers to his Father
are so well attested and have been so thoroughly investigated
that we do not need to elaborate further on this: Jesus calls
God his Father.
Only pne remark seems pertinent at this point. The
Father-Son relation is so intimate that we slide either into an
anthropomorphic idea of God (God is the Father of Man) or
a theomorphic image of Man (Man is the Son of God). Clas
sical theologies underscore the former. God is a transcendent
Father. More contemporary christologies, the latter. Man is
an immanent Son.85
The two other texts are also relevant although they have
sometimes been marginalized in comparison with the first.
We do not wish to argue now whether teknon (child) and
hyios (son) mean the same or whether the hyiothesia of Rom
VIII. 15 means adoption as a legal form (ficiio iuris) or may
have another less legalistic meaning. At any rate, the texts
explicitly tell us that we may also share in Christs filiation
to the Father. The texts make plain that Christ is the cause,
the hed of the Body, the reason why we also share divine
nature (II Petr. 1.4).86
These two latter texts are not reported as Jesus words;
85Gonzlez Faus (1984) could be adduced here as a beautiful example.
Commenting on John (and his Prologue), he remarks against some theo
logians que Juan no ve ms divinidad en Jess que la de ser hombre
(331) and quotes several times (221, 238, 333) L. BofFs sentence, refering,
of course, to Jesus: asi de [tan] humano slo puede serlo el mismo Dios
( only God can be human to such an extent).
86Gregory of Nyssa defines Christianity as tes thei as physeds mi mesi s
( imitatio divinae naturae) an imitation of divine nature, De profes-
si one chri sti ana (PG 46.244).
138 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
but they show the central message of Christ as understood by
a qualified disciple of Jesus: If Jesus truly calls God his Fa
ther, those who have received his Spirit have the same power
of calling God their Father: they have been adopted as chil
dren with the same rights. This can only be the case if Jesus
is understood to be our brother. Brothers are those who have
the same father.
Needless to remember that calling does not mean naming
in a merely nominalistic sense. Every call, active or passive,
amounts to an empowering (cp. Rom IX.12, Hebr V.4; I Cor
1.9; etc.). The power of the name (and of naming), of course,
has weakened in modern consciousness.
In a word, if Christ calls God his Father we too can
re-enact this experience by the gift of the Spirit (cp. Rom
VIII.9). If we both (Christ and us) call God our Father, we
may then try to understand what Jesus said.
The Experience
I venture the following desciption salva reverential
You, divine mystery, whom my own people call
Father, you are truly the direct origin, the beget
ter of what I am, you are the source from which I
proceed. I sense that your life passes through me,
that my life does not proceed from me, but from
a source which gives me not only life in general
but also words, ideas, inspiration, and all what
I am. What I speak is always somewhat heard.
If I were born in an apauruseya tradition I could
as well have said that I experience the very lan
guage of things and situations, that I can hear
what they say. But as I belong to a monotheistic
people, I express that experience by saying that
through them (things and events) I discover your
voice and your will. Peter surmised it, and thats
why I blessed him: He told me LThou Art (You
are) and then he felt the need of adding some
attributes belonging to the culture of his people:
Son of the living God Anointed, etc. This was
too exclusively linked with jewish culture, and I
told him not to proclaim it. In the language of
later centuries I could say that I experienced the
creatio continua, or rather the constant genera-
tio. I am being constantly begotten, created, sus
tained, given life, inspired . . . by that invisible
Mystery which people call God and picture in the
most diverse ways. Today you have been begot
ten was what I heard at the Jordan and on Mount
Tabor and the word Son still reverberates in
my ears.
In saying this I am stressing an intimate and
constitutive relation, but nevertheless a hierarchi
cal one. You are the Father, I am the Son; you
are the Source, I am the river of living waters
gushing forth from You. Without you, nothing.
I have learned obedience, the hard way, as Paul
rightly suspected (or whoever wrote Hebr VIII.7-
9). There is difference between us. Only you are
good, it is not my will that counts. I do not even
know your plans. I have the clear consciousness
that my task is a historical one, as I will have to
go away and back to you. Although I was unwill
ing to be called a prophet, I feel that the common
sense of the people was not mistaken when they
ascribed to me a historical role to perform or, put
in less theistic language, that my personal calling
was that of doing something for my fellow-beings
and for the universe at large. I had a unique task
to perform, and at the end of my short life I could
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
140 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
cry that I had done it. As for the rest, into your
hands I entrusted my spirit.
Does all this make sense to us? Yes, it does. Ifxin one way or
another, we could not re-enact what those words convey, the
entire talk about Jesus would be a futile exercise in barren
speculation, except perhaps for a conscious or unconscious
desire to manipulate Jesus figure in order to create or main
tain a power structure based on that lofty figure. But we
have to confess, and we are not alone in this confession
that we find those words pregnant with eternal life, because
we can truly have a similar experience.87 Perhaps influenced
by his own polemic words in response to the jews ( ye are
Gods) (Jn X.34 quoting Ps LXXXII.6) the Christian tradi
tion has often told us: Ye are Christs, alter Christus\ or as I
would dare say, ipse Christus\ following the doctrine of Paul.
Have the same sentiment among you which was in Christ Je
sus (Phil II.5) says Paul in an untranslatable phrase: touto
phroneite ( hoc sentite, renders the Vulgate, mind [AV, RV],
attitude [NAB] bearings [NEB]): share in the same intel
lectual experience, in the same intelligence or insights than
Jesus the Christ. This is the experience we are invited to
It makes sense to me, and I am able to re-enact that
experience, or rather to formulate my own experience using
that language (although I may be also capable of speaking
other languages):
Abba, Pateri I am not the source of my own be
ing, I am pure gift, I have received all that I am,
including what I call my I. Everything is grace.
I surely experience contingency (to use a philo
871 have found only in Fridolin Stiers the wonderful translation of
eternal life ( z aionios) with unendliches Leben, infinite Life cp.
Jn XII.50; XVII.3; Rom VI.23; etc.
sophical concept). I do not find in me my own
foundation, the reason of my life.
There is still more. Not only do I discover expe-
rientially my own contingency, I equally experi
ence that it all comes from you, a mysterious
Source which many have substantialised it as a
Supreme Being. To call you Father certainly
means a filial relation. It means the experience
of being begotten, of emerging, as it were, from
a Source and sharing its nature. It is the water
of the Source which flows down the river, it is
not a different water. Yet it does not necessarily
mean that there is a Substance which is, and
besides being, also functions as father. The very
name father is a function, not a substance: the fa
ther fathers. My Father is not a Being which be
sides his many activities also gives birth to me. He
has no other activity than this one. It is my Fa
ther who fathers me. It is about this experience of
being fathered, begotten, produced, given birth
that I am speaking and not about somebody else.
I am neither substantializing nor projecting into
the past something that is an experience, and thus
can only be of the present. Nor am I personify
ing. I rather experience i t as the ifons et origo
totius divinitatis to quote the Councils of Toledo,
as the theotes to echo St. Paul ( hapax legomenon
[Col 11.9]), as the Silence (sige) out of which
the word came, to follow St. Iraeneus.88 I also
know other expressions, although I would not use
them ( causa sui, das ganz Andere, ens a se, etc.).
Undoubtedly if I were born in another time and
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
**Et nous aussi, nous avons conscience de note moi, incre et
says such a traditional theologian as Boulgakov (1982) 193.
142 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
culture I would have called you Mother, and the
metaphor would have been probably more power
ful and certainly more immediate.
I also feel that this is not my exclusive privilege.
Every human being has you as Father; every be
ing is fathered by you, the fountainhead of ev
erything. Truly we are not orphans. We exist be
cause we ek-sist, proceed from such an infinite
source which is not pinned down by any name,
or as one mystic said: You are sunder Namen
(nameless), fiber alle Namen (above all names),
Hnnominabilis (unnameable), and 'omninomina-
bilis' (named by everything).
Having stated the relativity of the formulation, I may still
dedicate a paragraph to the appropriateness of the Abba,
First of all, it is a vocative, and the three passages where
it occurs all tell us of extreme situations, of a cry, a shout,
a prayer accompanied even by the shedding of blood. It is
a spontaneous outburst of joy, of suffering, or of hope. It is
not the literary style of the third person, of the narrative
about others or past situations. Nothing short of a personifi
cation will satisfy human nature when in extreme situations,
it experiences the bottomless life of the creature. We need
to personify. An ista-devatd is the most human way to deal
with that dimension of the human experience to find the
adequate divine icon for us. We need a divine person.
This is not all. Father stands not only for Source, Power
and Person. It stands also for Protection and specially for
Love. In the deepest recesses of my human awareness I dis
cover not just love in myself, but that I am capable of loving
precisely because I am loved. Human love is a response. Love
has been bestowed on me. I am capable of loving because I
have been loved. I am not always identifying the Source and
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
the Love, but I experience love as my attraction towards a
source, and I experience, at the same time, that the love with
which I am loved has also been received. I am not making ar
guments with love, as people are prone to make with reason,
but I can well experience that the Source of everything is also
the origin of Love. I experience once again, although often on
a minor scale the cited perichoresis. Sometimes I do not re
spond to the same person with the same love with which I am
loved, but I pass it on, as it were, to a third person. I may not
have responded adequately to the love of my parents, spouse
or friend, but I lavish that love on my children . . . to put
an example. The dance goes on. A current of love circulates
through the three worlds.
Thirdly, the Father combines in a unique way Power and
Love, two ultimate ingredients of the universe. The Father
is immensely superior to the son; he is the protector. And as
already said, the symbol Father stands equally for Mother,
giver of Life, existence, nurture, and Love. This symbol stands
at the same time for equality, sharing, participating in the
same venture. The son is equal to the father, and this equality
is felt even more if the father is mother. And agaip son here
is our patriarchal language, for it indicates simply the off
spring, the daughter as much as the boy. Abba, Pater, means
both Superiority and Equality.
In short, I can certainly re-enact the Abba, Pater! Man
is not an orphan, the Earth is her Mother-, the Heaven is her
Father as many ancient and primordial traditions assert.
I can read the story of the Man of Galilee in a way in
which I discover in what an eminent way he realized this
experience, to what extent he felt the nearness and, at the
same time, the distance between Father and Son.
If mysticism tells us about the experience of the ultimate
reality, the mysticism of Jesus the Christ is the experience of
that equality and difference with the Giver of Life, the Source
144 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
of the universe. Abba, Pater! Every Man is a child. And we
may now understand his saying about the children and the
kingdom of Heaven. Those who really undergo the father-
experience are not precisely the parents. And most theologies
commenting on this passage betray as I have until now
an adult experience. It is not the father who says father.
It is the child who shouts and sings and cries Father!
and here the capital case is proper. It is not just a sentiment
of dependence or of love. It is rather a primordial feeling of
belonging. For this reason we may as well or even better say
Mother what the historical Jesus could certainly not say.
To make this experience we do not need to be scribes or
Pharisees, learned or religious; we need simply tbrhave been
children. Not everyone is a father or mother, but everybody
has been a child.
There is but one point in which my experience, if it does
not differ, surely qualifies the old and venerable expression.
And saying this I voice the feeling of many of my contempo
raries, including Christians. I am encouraged by Christs ex
ample of not freezing tradition and impelling us to continue
and deepen his task (cp. our third group of texts). Creation
is not a finished product. And yet I am saying it hesitatingly:
I can pray and believe in Abba Pater! but with
a similar suffering and pain with which, it is re
ported, you prayed it at Gethsemane. The word
father is blurred in our present-day lives. Patri-
archalism is bad, but the destruction of the family
without any substitution is worse. And we are also
all-too aware of the difficulties involved in a pious
discourse regarding a loving and almighty father
who allows the immense tragedies of all times and
those of our technocratic period in an increased
I am quite relieved when I discover that the
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 145
old formula Credo in unum Patrem omnipoten-
tem does not correspond to your experience. You
experienced almost the opposite in the Garden
and excruciatingly on the Cross (Mt XXVII.46;
Mk XV.34). I experience your Fatherhood, but
not your almighty Power, your All-Might,89. How
could your almighty power allow all this? And
all the efforts at an answer seem similar to the re
sponse that God reveals the Trinity just to hum
ble our intelligence. I cannot believe all these
theologumena. Abba, Pater! is an excruciating
prayer, indeed, but not a dehumanizing one.
But there is more. Here perhaps other cultures
have shaped my experience. I can understand our
need for personification, but not the anthromor-
phism of the personalistic interpretation of the di
vine Father-figure. Abba} Paterl represents for me
neither the belief in an Other (Substantial Being),
nor, and much less, the belief in my embellished
Self. Neither dualism (You over there and we
89 Let us recall the pertinence of the Italian saying traduttore tradi-
tore in reference to the Christian creed on the all-powerful God, origin
of so many theological quandaries. Although the world 1omnipotent* is
found in some early confessions of faith, they translate the Greek pan-
t okrator whose meaning is rather omnia pot ens, i.e. the one who has do
minion over all. The Epitola Apostol orum (cira 160) in its first article
says: in Patrem dominatorem universi (Denz 1). We find also: Credo
in unum Patrem omnium dominatorem (Denz 5) besides the majority
of texts referring to pantokrator (pant okratora) like Denz 41, 42, 44, 46,
50, 51, 60, 61, 64, 71, etc. The Vetus Latina has still omnia potens. It
was St. Jerome who consecrated the omni potens in the Vulgate. Rebolle
(1995) 147 remarks also that pantokrator was also the translation of the
divine title of Yahwch s e bt, God of the armies which was also trans
lated as Kyri os ton dynameon (Lord of the powers). Michaelis explains
in Kittel (1964) III.915 that Pantokrat or refers to Gods supremacy
and not to power over all things.
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
down here), nor monism (an all-swallowing God
or an alone-standing self-sufficient Man). Here is
where your expression my Father becomes full of
life. The Father belongs to the I am that 1 also
am. In this awareness I overcome the naive belief
that my Father is all-powerful besides other
philosophical aporias of the same notion.
And this is not yet all. The designs of my Fa
ther are inscrutable, because there is not a super
divine intellect which has planned beforehand the
destiny of the universe. My Father is my Fa
ther being my Father, and being the Father of
all, not being an independent Engineer who has
calculated (or miscalculated, according to some)
the destiny of the universe. Neither mathematics
nor logic are above the divine mystery which you
called the Father.
This first experience, however it might be qualified and mod
ified with the following text which stresses equality and the
same nature with the Father, is irretrievable and definitive
as much as the second one. Human consciousness may reach
a supreme stage, as some mystics may claim, but even then
when that consciousness reverberates on human shores (we,
humans are those who speak of infinite consciousness) it
shows an infinite difference from the Source. This is precisely
the experience of the Trinity. The self-identity of each per
son is so perfect and absolute that there is no neutral place
where diversity could appear. Hence difference is also infinite.
Pantheism is not the answer.90
90We may apply the famous difference between creator and creature
(Denz. 806) also to the Trinity. Nothing is finite in the Trinity.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
2. I and the Father are One
The Text
Just as the first utterance was not a unique sentence but
the expression of a repetedly expressed conviction, this sec
ond statement also pervades the entire message of Jesus: his
equality with the Father along with the many qualifica
tions the Gospel writers or he himself may have introduced.
We should mention here the interest of a certain tradition,
as well as of modern exegetes, in severing the Synoptics from
Johns Gospel.91 Our concern is not with the ipsissima verba,
but with the complex figure of Christ as understood not only
by the first generations but by the Christians up to our present
times, i.e. by the Church.92
I insist. Either the Christian believers have projected on
the figure of Jesus Christ their desires, anxieties, and expec
tations, either they are victims of a hallucination, mild as
it may be, because the Man Jesus was not what they imag
ine him to be, or that Man offers a real ground for Christian
To repeat, either these sentences make sense for us today,
or thej^are said by an elephant flying in the skies. It should
be acceptable if it were a question of God uttering incom
prehensible sentences, but then Christ would be just a divine
avatdra and not a real Man.
Among the many quotations, we adduce only three:
(i) ego kai ho pater en esmen
Ego et Pater unum sumus (Vg.)
91 Once again stressed by Massa (1995) 2.
92Dupuis (1994) 52 writes that if we are not certain of the ipsissima
verba the ipsissima i nt enti o can be safely ascertained*.
93Suffice to mention Arthur Drews name ( The Christ Myt h of 1909)
with all the religionswissenschaftliche discussions which are still rele
vant today.
148 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
I and my Father are one (AV)94
Jn X.30
The immediate context of this mahdvdkya is enlightening. It
depicts a heated dispute, even if it may have been reported
and re-arranged later. After he had pronounced that state
ment the jews wanted to stone Jesus, and stoning was unto
death. The issue is of life and death.
We will not describe the context of the entire passage.
One comment only: Jesus does not dilute the issue. On the
contrary, he does not minimize the answer, he maximizes it by
daring a blasphemous exegesis of a Hebrew psalm (LXXXII,
6): You are Gods.95 It is all epitomized in the finale of
the dispute, when he declares that his works should serve
as'a manifestation of the truthfulness of his words. We are
challenged to accept the witness of the works and recognize
in me est Pater, et ego in Patre (New Vulgate)
Pater in me est, et ego in Patre (Vg.)
The Father is in me, and I in the Father (NEB)
Jn X.38
In another germane text this unity is extended to all those
who shall believe in him:
94We may compare with other translations:
I and the Father are one (RV).
My Father and 1 are one (NEB).
Le Pere et moi, nous sommes un (BJ)
Ich und der Vater sind eins (Neue Jerusalemer Bibel, also Rosch and
Jo i el Pare som una sola cosa (Montserat).
Jo i el Pare som u (Mateos/Rius Camps).
Yo y el Padre somos una sola cosa (Nacar/Colunga).
Io e il Padre siamo una sola cosa (Barbaglio).
95Cp. Botterweck-Ringgen (1973) in a multitude of places (vgr. I, 681)
and Strack-Billerbeck II, 542 sq. and III 223 sq. of the jewish context.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
May they all be one: as thou, Father, art in me,
and I in thee, so also may they be in us . . . that
they may be one, as we are one; I in them and
thou in me, may they be perfectly one. (NEB)
Jn XVII.21-23
This is already an introduction to our second text.
(ii) ho heraks eme eraken ton patera
Qui videt me, videt [et96] Patrem (Vg.)
Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father (NRSV;
Jn XIV.9
If the first context is full of danger and dialectics, this one
is full of sorrow and melancholy. It belongs to the so-called
last sayings of Jesus, his testament, and farewell discourse.
After so much talk about the Father Philip dares to ask to
be shown the Father. The answer also has a sad tone:
So long a time I am with you, Philip, and you
have not known me?
He does not say: I have been already a long time with you
speaking about the Father, how is it that you still do not
know hirnZ He does not say him but me!
"Some Greek texts have kai which is given in the Vulgate. On the
other hand the New Vulgate says: Qui vidit me, vidit Patrem.
97We give other translations:
He that hath seen me hath seen the Father (AV and RV).
He who sees me sees also the Father (Confraternity/Challoner-
Qui ma vu a vu le Pre (BJ).
Wer mich gesehen hat, hat den Vater gesehen (Neuer Jerusalemer
Qui mha vist a mi, ha vist el Pare (Montserat).
Qui em veu a mi present esta veient el Pare (Mateos/Rius Camps).
El que me ha visto a mi ha visto al Padre (Martin Nieto).
Chi ha visto me ha visto il Padre (Barbaglio).
150 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (NEB).
Therefore, you have not seen me. The text explains it
Dont you believe that I (am) in the Father and
the Father (is) in me?
Jn XIV.10
Our point is that these affirmations made sense for Jesus or
for those who since the very beginning put them on the lips
of Jesus and for countless generations thereafter.
(iii) kathos, aposteilen me ho zn patr kag zo dia ton pa
tera, kai ho trgn me kakeinos zsei di eme
Sicut misit me vivens Pater, et ego vivo propter Pa
trem, (:) et qui manducat me, et ipse vivet propter me
(Vg./New Vg.)
As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the
Father, so he who eats me shall live because of me.
Jn VI.57
The context here is the eucharistie dispute. The unity be
tween Jesus and his Father is extended to all who will par
ticipate eucharistically with him.
98 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he
that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (AV).
As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he
that eateth me, he also shall live because of me (RV).
De mme quenvoy par le Pre, qui est vivant, moi, je vis par le Pre,
de mme celui qui me mange vivra, lui aussi, par moi (BJ).
Wie mich der lebendige Vater gesandt hat und wie ich durch den Vater
lebe, so wird jeder, der mich isst, durch mich leben (Neue Jerusalemer
Aixi com jo, enviat pel Pare que viu, vise pel Pare, aixi gui em menja
a mi viur a causa de mi (Montserat).
A mi raha enviat el Pare, que viu, i jo vise grcies al Pare; aixi, tamb
qui em menja a mi viur grcies a mi (Mateos/Rius Camps).
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 151
We leave aside one of the most famous utterances of the
johannine Jesus: ego eimi, ego sum, I am (Jn VIII.58)
which echoes the traditional self-description of Yahweh in Ex
III, 14 ( I am who I am). Another polemical I am comes at
the climax of Jesus trial (Lk XXII.70), and the I sentences
of Jesus have been closely scrutinized. We also pass over that
other elusive sentence which Jesus gave when directly asked
who he was (Jn VIII.25), and which is difficult to translate.
Important as the ego eimi statements are, we prefer to leave
them out in order not to indulge in theological discussions."
The Interpretation
A more animistic and less individualistic interpretation of
these texts might be very helpful, but we want to limit our
selves to our attempt at being able to re-enact the experience
behind those words.
What appears clearly in those words is the traditional
perichoresis which here is not reduced to the intra-trinitarian
realm, but extended to all creation. Is there anything outside
the Trinity? The text seems to say that there is a current,
a Life one is prone to read, which transits from the Father to
Christ and to all who commune with him.100
From a monotheistic pespective, the radical separation
between the human and the divine seemed threatened by
those blasphemous confessions. This was Christs challenge.
The first Christian thinkers understood it well. God becomes
Man in order that Man become God.101. There is a bridge
"Cp . Stauffer in Kittel (1964), and in general Lamarche (1965) 1-18,
and Liebaert (1965) as well as the other fascicles of vol. Il l, all of them
with abundant bibliography.
100<Quaecumque sunt a Deo ordinem habent ad invicem et ad ipsum
Deum* (Whatever is from God is related to each other and to the same
God1) was a common Christian belief. D. Thom. Sum. Theol. I, q. 47, a.
101 Cp. Clement Alex. Prot ept 1, 9 who seems to be the first to have ex-
152 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
and the bridge can be crossed over.102 This Man seems to
say that the abyss between the human and the divine does
not exist. Probably because of this he eliminated fear and
preached love. We have already cited the phrase of Psalm
LXXXII, 6 You are Gods.
Besides the politeness of some modern translations of
the first text which invert the order of the sentence and the
inclusion of the possessive because of the context, we may
remark the use of the plural in the verb. The text does not
say: I am one with the Father.
The sentence does not say I am equal with the Father (or
equal to) but I and the Father are equal; We are one. There
is an irreducible We, an ultimate I and Father. There is
Father and Son; they are different, i.e., Father and Son. The
Father is Father, the Son is Son. To be sure, the Father is
Father, or rather is the Sons Father, because he fathers; and
the Son is such because he is the Fathers Son.
In a word, there is identity and difference. The differ
ence is Father and Son. The identity is that One, hen, unum.
We should make a simple but momentous remark. Properly
speaking, we should not have used the current language which
says difference. Father and Son are certainly not identical,
plicitly spoken of our divinisation (giving a new meaning to theopoiein).
Cp. also Ireneus, Adv. haer. Il l, 19 (P. G., 7. 939 B). St. Gregory the
Theologian puts it even more concisely: hia genmai tosoton theos,
oson ekeinos anthrpos (So that I become God in the measure that he
[became] Man) (Oratio thcologica III, 19 [PG 36, 100 A]). For these
latter and other quotations, cp. Hausherr (1955) 306-7. Overspanning
almost twenty centuries we may quote perhaps the last great scholastic
philosopher, underscoring the experiential dimension of Christianity: WE1
hombre es una proyeccin formal de la propia realidad divina; es una
manera finita de ser Dios . . . dios es trascendente en la persona hu
man, siendo sta deiformemente Dios . . . El cristianismo es religin de
deiformidad. De ah que el carcter experiencial del cristianismo sea la
suprema experiencia teologal . . . Zubiri (1975) 62.
102Eckhart says it with even greater precision: filius dei fit homo et
filius hominis fit filius dei*, In Jn III (LW III.118).
Panik/car: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 153
but they are not different either. They could be different only
over against a common ground which allows for the difference
from each other. But this is only the case if we substantial
ize both, make of both two substances which obviously would
then be different. If we take the Abba-experience in its depth,
the Father is Father and nothing else, and so the Son is noth
ing but Son. Neither Father nor Son are substances.103
Father and Son are not different; they are correlates. The
one implies the other and there is not the one without the
Here the expression my Father acquires its most pro
found meaning. He had received the retort: our father is
Abraham (Jn VIII.39). He answered: If God were your Fa
ther, you would love me (Jn VIII.42), you would under
stand that the power comes from the Father (Jn V.19). The
expression my Father coresponds to the controversial mono
genes, unigenitus, (Jn 1.14; 18; III.16; 18; I Jn IV.9)104 and
103The oblivion of tradition is sometimes intriguing not to say suspect.
Cp. one single example: oute ousias onoma ho Pat er . . . oute energeias,
scheseos de kai tou pos echei pros ion Hyion ho Pater, e ho Hyios pros
ton Patera . . . Nec essentiae nomen est Pater, o viri acutissimi, nec
actionis; sed relationem earn indicat, quara Pater erga Filium habet, vel
Filius erga R^trem.
[And the example is enligliening] Ut enim apud nos haec nomina ger
man am quamdam coniunctionem et necessitudinem declarant, ad eum-
dem modum illic quoque genitorem ac genitum earadem naturam habere
significant . Gregorius Nazianzenus, Oratio theologica, III, 16 (PG 36,
96). The name Father5 is not a substance [not an essence, not a thing].
Nor it is an action [an energy, a power], O most learned of people! (ho
sophot at oi ). It is a relation from the Father to the Son and from the Son
to the Father. . . meaning that begetter and begotten have the same
nature (homophyian).
It is the same saint who said: Do you want some time to become a
theologian? . . . Keep the commandments! giving also the reason: the
praxis is the way to contemplation , ibid. XX, 12 (PG 35, 1080 B). This
is why I expressed not only intrigue, but suspicion.
104The NEB translates as Fathers only Son. This does not render
the idea which still is dimly conserved in only begotten of (from) the
154 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
should be related to the controversy about the prototokos,
primogenitus.105 Of course, neither expression is used by Je
sus. We may interpret it not as an exclusive, but as an ex
haustive sonship. Jesus is not an only son as offspring of a
father who could have had many children, but as the ever
being born, semper noscens as Eckhart would say, from the
Father.106 In this sense the Son can only be one, because the
Father is constantly begetting him. Many a controversy and
misunderstanding would have been avoided if this interpre
tation had been taken into consideration.
What concerns us here is the immediate awareness of core
lations without which we may easily misunderstand this and
other texts.
There is a Source, a source of my being and even a myste
rious Source of Being. But this Origin is only such because it
originates. The Father is father because (it) fathers; the Son
is son because (it) is begotten. There are two poles of one
reality. Yet that reality is nothing but the relation (between
the two).
The Experience
I experience that I live because of that link. It is the link
of life.107 I experience that this life has not been bestowed
upon me, it has made me, so that it is me, and I can say my
Father (AV k RV).
105The NEB also evades the literal translation: his is the primacy
over all created things [in note: born before]. The first born of every
creature (of all creation) (AV k RV respectively). Cp. Col 1.15; Rom
106 Commenting on Jn 1.1-2 Eckhart writes: et si semper in prindpio,
semper nascitur, semper generatur (LW III.9).
107Prius vita quam doctrina wrote Thomas Aquinas, adding: vita
enim dudt ad cognitionem veritatis because, as he himself said vita
viventibus est esse.
Panikkdr: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 155
Life as Christ said my Father.108 As the Father has life in
himself, so also he has granted ( edoken) to the Son to have
life in himself (Jn V.26). We share Life as the source and
the river share water. We are water, and as long as the water
flows I am not the source but the water of the source.109
This experience is far from pantheism, which would be
a merely conceptual interpretation of that experience. I am
water, but my water is not your water. Water is a mere
concept, and all is water a mere abstraction. Each water is
unique. And the higher the water we could say stretching
the simile, the more different from the common denominator
water. Not all thinking is an algebra of concepts.
Let me try my own words: I and the Father are one in
the measure that my ego disappears; and my ego disappears
to the degree that it allows itself to be shared by anyone
who comes to me, eats me, or seeing me does not see me,
but what I say or rather what I am. This happens when I
have that transparency which is all the more pure the more I
am rid of my little self.110 When my ego is obtrusive, people
108Cp. St Augustin, In Ioannis Evangelium Tract atus XXVI, 19, com
menting that if Jesus can say I live because of the Father" ( vivo proter
Patrem Jn VI.57) while the Father is greater than he (Jn XIV.28) we
can also live because of Christ* who nevertheless is greater than us.
109St Augustine expresses it in a traditional manner: Quae est ergo
doctrina Patris, nisi verbum Patris? Ipse ergo Christus doctrina Patris.
Sed, quia Verbum non potest esse nullius sed alicuius, et suam doctrinam
dixit seipsum et non suam, quia Patris est Verbum. Quid enim tarn tuum
est quam tu? et quid tam non tuum quam tu, alicuius es quod es?
August , Tract, in /oan., XXIX (PL, 35.1629). ( Which is the Fathers
doctrine if not the Fathers Word? Christ himself is the Fathers doctrine,
if he is the Fathers Word. As it is impossible that the Word be of nobody,
but it has to be of somebody, he declared that he himself is his doctrine
and not his doctrine, because he is the Fathers Word. What is more
yours than yourself? But what is less yours than yourself, if what you
are is somebodys?). Augustin is commenting upon my doctrine is not
mine, but his who sent me (Jn VII. 16).
110 We may now complete the quotation of Gregory of Nazi&nz: Vis
156 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
clash with me, and often meet only their own projections,
what they already expect to be and imagine they are. My
ego is like a wall against which they rebound.
When I am transparent, I am fearless and truly myself, my
Self. Transparency allows for a spontaneity that flows from
me only when I am pure. I experience the poverty in spirit
precisely in this way. The reign of the heavens is mine when I
possess nothing for myself. Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt
V.3) is not a statement about economics. It is the invitation
to discover that the entire universe is mine, or rather me,
when there is no me, no ego to disturb this belonging.111
That the pure of heart shall see God expresses the same
experience (Mt 5.8). The beatitudes are neither doctrines,
nor moral advice, nor injunctions: they are the celebration of
the most intimate awareness that, if I do not want anything
for my selfish ego, I have everything and am everything. I am
one with the source when I, too, act like a source, allowing
all that I receive to flow out like Jesus.
Certainly the person who listens to me hears my voice,
sees my face, reads my thoughts, and suffers all my lim
itations. But it sometimes happens that someone hears
through my voice, sees through my face, perceives beyond
my thoughts, and gets an insight behind my clumsiness. He
who really sees, I would dare say, sees already the Father, the
Mystery, Reality.112
This is only possible if this intimate union is not selfish,
theologus aliquando fieri ac divinitate dignus? (t s theottos axios) Loe.
cit. To be worthy of the Godhead is the requisite for doing authentic
theo-logy, to utter worthy words about the ultimate mystery.
111 Cp. the daring statement of Juan de la Cruz saying that all is his:
The heavens are mine, the earth is mine, and the peoples . . . God him
self is mine, because Christ is mine and all for me Mxi mas y sent enci as,
1121see a homeomorphic equivalent to this experience in the Mahynic
insight of equating nirvana and samsara. Who truely experiences
samsara discovers nirvana. Ngrjuna, Madhyamikakrika XXV. 19-20.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
not egoistically preserved, but shared in communion, service,
and love. Are not those experiences more frequent than it
might appear?
Christ did come not so much to teach doctrines, but to
communicate life, experience (Jn X.10), ultimately, to com
municate himself: his own life that of the Father. I do not
deny that he had those experiences in such a degree that my
own insights fade away as pale imitations. But we do not need
to play the humble-minded and the sinner, in order that he
may appear the saint and the divine. I even sense that Jesus
does not like those attitudes. Ego dixi, dii estis as already
quoted (Ps 82.6, Jn 10.34). Why, then, should we not feel
entitled to speak like a God? Personal dignity implies that
we are not just one of the many rings in a lifeless chain of
entities (even of Being), but that each one of us is unique,
irreplaceable, because of infinite value, divine.
I insist that none of those experiences are foreign or in
accessible to us. We truly understand what he was talking
about. And now, what we said at the beginning may become
more plausible, that even if we cannot be sure that our Man
of Galilee had uttered such words, we have heard them in
our hearts; that message pervades our life and reveals the ul
timate experience of the human being. Should I quote not a
sentimental mystical writer but Thomas Aquinas: If Christ
would have entrusted his doctrine to writing, people would
imagine that there is nothing else in his doctrine than what
Scripture contains.113 All this is not at all demeaning for a
symbol which claims to have reached the supreme kenosis.114
113 uSi autem Christus scripto suara doctrinam mandaret, nihil alius
de eius doctrina homines existimarent quam quod scriptura contineret,
Sum. Tlieol. Ill, q. 42, a. 4. He reminds us of texts (Jn XXI.25 and II
Cor III.3, and cites Pythagoras and Socrates as excellentissimi doctores*
who did the same. We could add Buddha, MahavTra and others.
1141 spare the reader of my indignation when consulting most of the
modern tanslations of Phil. II, 7, a fundamental text for a true encounter
158 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
This is not deification5in a mythological manner. It is rather
the sober and serene awareness that the indwelling of the di
vine mystery is not imagination, that I am participating in
this cosmotheandric adventure of reality. And again this does
not at all deny that this supreme human experience (that
of being a vessel of infinitude) can be expressed differently
by other traditions. Are we not saying, after all, that Jesus
Christ is the revelation of the infinite Mystery hidden in the
cosmos since times eternal (Rom XVI.25-26)?
Even if I am far away from being eucharist, bread of life for
others, and very slow to realise that whoever comes in contact
with me enters into communication with the very source of
life which veritably gives Life to me and all others, or still
so opaque that not everyone who sees me sees the Father,
I cannot deny that all those experiences are my experiences
and within the reach of any human being. Might not precisely
this be the truly Good News5?
I and the Father are one.5 How else could it be? The
Father is not a Supreme Being who accidentally lets his sperm
beget some children so that they may also exist. The Father
is nothing but Father, i.e., fathering. If he5would disappear
I also would be annihilated as so many Christian thinkers
We have already dispelled the fear of pantheism, recogniz
ing that our differences are infinite as in the Trinity. Our
oneness with God, our divine character, as Christian tradition
was fond of saying, does not constitute an undiscriminated
fusion. And yet, it does not allow for separation either. The
Source is not me, but it is not separated nor separable from
We made a passing reference to the scholastic creatio con
tinue, which liberates us from living in a fixed and unfree
with many religions of Asia, specially buddhism, as thinkers of such
cultures begin to discover.
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 159
universe. We may also mention another experience which is
difficult to communicate, because both words and thoughts
recoil, as an Upanisad affirms.115 It could be expressed within
the atmosphere of Meister Eckhart as incarnatio continue.116
But perhaps silence is most fitting at this juncture.
* * *
When I react against being called a human being or when I
am critical of evolutionistic thinking and claim to be Man,
just Man, it is not that I do not include women in Man or
do not recognize the merits of the Darwinistic hypothesis. It
is that I react against the epidemic of modern superficial
ity which tends to obscure one of the most central human
experiences: that of being unique, divine, centre of reality,
constitutively linked with the source of all, a microcosm re
flecting the entire macrocosm; in a word, one with the Father,
infinite, incomparable, not interchangeable. The I is not the
me. I am not just the product of evolution, a speck of dust
or mind in the middle of an immense universe. In sum, I am
not a member of a classification; I am the classifier. And this
is also the case, obviously, for everyone and everything. The
dignity of Man consists precisely in being aware of it: I and
the Father are one. And that is what the Mediator, anthropos
Christos ISsous (I Tim II.5) dared to say.
3. I should go
The Text
,(i) alPego ten aletheian lego hymin, sympherei hymin hina
ego apeltho. ean gar me apelthdf ho parakletos on me
115 When words recoil, together with the mind, unable to reach it
whose knows that bliss of Brahman has no fear Taittirxya U. II.9.
llfiCp. Wilke (1995), 237-62 specially her sub-chapter creatio conti nua
ist incarnati o cont i nual
160 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
elth pros hymas ean de poreuth, pemps auton pros
Sed ego veritatem dico vobis: expedit vobis ut ego
vadam. Si ego non abiero Paraciitus non veniet ad vos;
si autem abiero, mittam eum ad vos. (Vg.)
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is for your good that
I am leaving you. If I do not go, your Advocate will not
come, whereas if I go, I will send him to you (NEB).117
We do not need to linger on the scene, even though it is
very moving and might have been constructed afterwards. It
is, nevertheless, a human, an all-too-human situation: The
future does not look bright, his followers will be persecuted,
and the pervading mood among his disciples is that he is leav
ing rather abruptly without having achieved anything, almost
abandoning them. One could understand Judas frustration
and despair: Jesus*mission is ending as a total fiasco. He has
not provided for anything durable, or left any institution. He
neither baptised nor ordained, nor, much less, founded any
thing (although he might have stated his intention of doing
so). He sent them away like sheep among wolves and even at
the end refuses to change his tactics. The wolves are having
117 It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come unto you (AV and RV).
It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate
will not come to you (Confraternity/Challoner/Rheims).
II vaut mieux pour vous que je parte; car si je ne pars pas, le Paraclet
ne viendra pas a vous . . . (B.J.).
Es ist gut fr euch, dass ich fortgehe. Denn wenn ich nicht fortgehe,
wird der Beistand nicht zu euch kommen (Neue Jerusalemer Bibel).
Es gereicht euch zum Guten, da ich weggehe. Denn: Wenn ich nicht
weggelie, kommt der Mutbringer nicht zu euch (Stier).
Us conv que men vagi; perqu si no men vaig, no vindra el vostre
valedor a vosaltres, . . . (Mateos/Rius Camps).
bene per voi che io me ne vada, perch, se non me ne vado, non
verra a voi il Consolatore . . . (Barbaglio).
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
it. Only one thing he promises: the Spirit.
We need not delve into the meaning of that polysemic verb
sympherd, which literally means to bring together, gather,
collect, and in this particular case has the meaning of being
profitable, advantageous, expedient, and fits with the entire
His life is coming to an end. Yes, he is going to the Father
(Jn 14.12; 16.17; 28; 20.17; etc.). Still he is going away. He
consoles them saying that heis not leaving them orphans (Jn
14.18); but he clearly states that they will no longer see him.
And the ghost of his oncoming death is present all the time.
He promises them consolation, comfort, an intercessor, a
mediator, a helper, a Paraclete. In other texts this advocate
is described as the Spirit and is often called the Spirit of
truth (Jn 14.17; 26; 15.26; 16.13; etc.) perhaps recalling the
language of the Qumran Community.118
(ii) hotan de elthe ekeinos to pneuma tes aletheias,
hodegeset hymas eis ten aletheian pasan
Cum autem venerit ille,
Spiritus veritatis deducet vos
in omnem veritatem
HfiWever, when he comes who is
the Spirit of truth, he will guide you
into all the truth. (NEB)
Jn XVI. 13
The text cannot be more explicit. Once he goes the Spirit of
truth will come and introduce us into the entire truth. Is this
naive trust in Man or blind confidence in the Spirit? Jesus
is supposed to have also said that it is the Spirit who gives
n *The Manual of Discipli ne of the Qumran Community confers on the
spirit of truth the function of enlightening the heart of Man, putting
straight the path of righteousness, . . . giving understanding and intelli
gence, . . . spirit of discernment e t c . . . 1 QS IV, 2-G.
162 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
life: Spiritus est, qui vivificat (Jn VI.63) although some
exegetes may prefer to contextualize this saying within the
eucharistic discussions.
(iii) ho pisteun eis eme ta ergo ha ego
kakeinos poisei, kai meizona tontn poiesei,
hoti ego pros ton patera poreuomai
Qui credit in me, opera, quae
ego facio, et ipse faciet, et maiora
horum faciet, quia ego ad Patrem vado
Whoever believes in me
will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father (NJB)119
Jn XIV. 12
We recall the theological distinctions traditionally employed
in order not to allow the disciple to surpass the master, al
though this text seems to affirm that this is the case.
Nevertheless, the statement suggests that we are only at
the beginning of a new dispensation, and that our task is to
set it forth in a creative and even more wondrous way. But we
return to the sentiments of Jesus when he said those words
or gave occasion to his first disciples to put those sentences
in his mouth.
The Interpretation
The traditional interpretation of the entire last discourse of
Jesus is wellknown. Jesus seems to be conscious of his mis
sion and responsibility. The Farewell talk gives hints of the
119 Cp. other translations:
he who has faith in me will do what I am doing; and he will do greater
things still because I am going to the Father (NEB).
anche chi crede in me, compira le opere che io compio e ne fara di pi
grandi, perch io vado al padre (Barbaglio).
Wer an mich glaubt, der wird die Werke, die ich tue, aber selber tun.
Ja, grssere als die wird er tun, weil ich zum Vater gehe.1 (Stier)
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
Trinity and the Church, and contains an undeniable example
of the climate of the first Christian generations. Christians
would be hardly understandable without those chapters.
Modern scholarship has done wonders in filtering layers
of redaction and scrutinizing the possible historical happen
ing^) that gave rise to this text. But there is no denying
that in one way or another, the promise of the Spirit seems
to belong to the kerygma of Jesus.120
But our concern is different. We are interested in under
standing the Man capable of making those utterances, and
we are trying to do this by examining whether we may be
able to re-enact the experience behind those words. It may
be true that the first Christian generations believed that the
Son of God, wanting to establish his Church and conscious of
fulfilling a role given by his divine Father, made that wonder
ful speech that the Gospels narrate. It could be interpreted as
the climax of his teaching. But even if this were the case we
also realize that the attitude reflected in this text is typical
of the Man of Galilee. He preached by his example. Hence,
instead of visualizing a triumphalistic mise en scene by the
later Christian communities in which Jesus seems to be overly
confident about his Church, we may understand those words
as the narrative of a realistic situation that shatters all ide
alistic expectations.
Jesus seems to have failed and missed every opportunity
to establish his Church. The enthusiastic crowds wanted to
make him king. He went away. The apostles wanted to keep
him on the mountain. He scolded them and descended to
the plains. Satan wanted to offer him all the kingdoms of the
world. He refused. He did not even want to listen to Scripture
and convert the stones into his own food, but preferred that
the stones remain stones. He was certainly not a diplomat
120 Cp. the expression of Gonzalez Faus (1995) 124 extra Spiritum nulla
164 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
able to endear himself to the authorities. This time he did not
go away. He was caught and got rid of. He died, abandoned.
We are not, therefore, commenting on a single statement
and spinning out a special exegesis. We are trying to un
derstand his experience and asking whether eventually our
experience agrees with the fundamental attitude we detect in
his words and deeds.
He was constant with that message. He lived up to it and
he preached it: me merimnatel (Mt VI.25-34; Lk XII.11, 22):
Do not be anxious about the future, be carefree, do not think
before hand what you are to say . . . (Mt X.19).
In this connection, it seems appropriate to report a mov
ing scene which reveals the humanity of Jesus. It is not the
question of an omniscient being just to elicit repentance for
Peters betrayal whoever may have written the passage
and whatever may be its historical degree of reality. We re
fer, of course to the question after breakfast: Simon son of
John, do you love me more than all else? (NEB) or [more
than these] (Jn XXI.15 sq.). He has to go anyway, even if
he is risen, and he just begs for love, for human love. He can
leave if he is reassured about being loved. He does not ask:
Simon of John, have you understood my message? have you
realised who I was? Even the reference to not being able to
go where he would like to go and do what he had dreamt of
doing has an autobiographical (and prophetic) tone: I leave
it all to love and not to my will or to programmes of any
sort. I have to go, I simply go, and leave you with a question:
Have I elicited your love? Those who, like Peter, are not sure
of yourselves, because of the many betrayals, but still love
me to you I entrust my message. He behaved truly as a
servant and not as a pantokrator.
We are not exposing Christian doctrine, but trying to un
derstand a human experience. We can only do this, if we do
not divorce the alleged author of those words from his life,
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
and his sharing in the human condition along with us.
The Experience
The question we are asking is whether we can understand that
utterance without minimizing or diluting it, but also without
making it and similar statements supernatural declarations of
a super-human consciousness. I ask myself, a normal person,
how can I understand what goes on in a human heart uttering
those words? Do we not call him our Brother? and Friend,
as he told us?
I am not in the same situation, and few feel called to
perform such a guru role, although in any family and loving
atmosphere such a situation is thinkable and possible. But I
may try to articulate that experience.
I should go, otherwise the Spirit will not come: I
should not care about perpetuating my life, since
unless I go, Life will not continue and be passed
on to others. Otherwise, all that I have been, felt,
experienced, loved, and seen, will remain barren
and descend with me into the tomb. I am not the
private proprietor of my life that Life which
has been bestowed upon me. If I cling to it, Life
will Hot flow, not live.
I should not hanker after immortalizing myself
or be worried that my projects, ideas, ideals be
strictly followed and observed according to my
desires. There is dynamism in Life, there is the
Spirit of Truth which I myself may be able to
set free from me. This Spirit will pervade others
by herself and on her own initiative without my
having to pre-plan it. This is freedom. Where the
Spirit is, there is freedom (II Cor. III.17).
This lived experience, we said, represents a truly liberated
soul, a more difficult experience to attain than that of being
166 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
called to partake in the divine nature (II Petr. 1.4). It implies
having reached a total transparency and having transcended
both the burden of the past and the fear of the future.
I leave many of my projects undone, many of my aspira
tions unfulfilled. I may die young, and even if blessed with
years of life, the more I live the more I discover what I could
have done and still could do. At any rate, the tasks in and of
the world are not yet finished. Did I dream to finish them?
have I not learnt that Lao tse, Socrates, Shankara, Kant,
Gandhi, my mother (to put disparate examples), all departed
but not their spirit? To be a Man is to be unique fox the time
being and leave the work to others. I know that I shall
go, but it takes time to learn that I should go. Eternity is not
a long or indefinite time. Eternal life is not go on living into
the future.
The first mahvdka looks somehow at the past: The Far
ther is before me, more powerful than myself, the Source.
The second statement concerns somewhat the present: We
are of the same nature, we are one, our link is life-giving, it
is my own existence. This third utterance is directed towards
the future and the overcoming of its grip on us: I should go, I
certainly shall go away, and I do not regret it, I do not hanker
after a desired immortality, after a prolongation of my exis
tence, not even of my ideals, thoughts, plans, projects. If one
loves unto the end (Jn XIII.1), one trusts the loved ones. I
do not want to freeze the flow of Life which comes from th
Father and will go on. I share in that Life, I participate in
this adventure, I do not need heavy luggage: Consummatum
es*! The Spirit will come, even if I do not send her, even if I
do not have power over her and it is not me who sends her.
She will come. The Spirit and the nymph say. Come! (Apoc
XXII.17).121 And we who hear, respond: Come!
121 It is significant and moving to read this text of Revelation as the
motto of Serge Boulgakovs Christology, Agnets Boji i of 1933, a book
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 167
To be sure, I may not be able to live up to that intuition
always, but I cannot deny that I truly know it (in an expe
riential sense) if I live a truly authentic life without any ego.
There is then an egoless force, power ( exousia), within me
which sends the Spirit into the world. It is the Spirit which
I succeed in identifying with when my heart is pure.
There is still more: If I do not go away, the Paraclete
will not come. We leave unexarained who or what this
One called alongside, this Comforter, Consoler, Advo
cate, Intercessor, Called upon, Invoked, is. I sum it all
up with the traditional word of Spirit.
If I cling to my life, my ego, my mission, my task, my
ideal, or obviously worse, my possessions, my family, people,
world; if I do not let it all go, if I do not renounce any desire
of prolonging my life (even if I call it immortality) and insist
on building monuments to my creations and yearn to set in
order what has cost me so much effort to produce so that
it may not all be lost, Life will be stifled. I am transient, or
rather, I share in the perichoresis, in the dance of the entire
universe, in the constant rhythm of all, in the trinitarian or
cosmotheandric display of reality.
This is perhaps the most striking experience of Jesus: to
be carefree, not to be anxious about the future, to learn from
the flowers that today they bloom, and tomorrow will have
faded away, to renounce dreaming about the future and living
a life always projected into the future thus missing the
tempiternal moments of our human existence.
I can well understand the Man of Nazareth feeling sadness
but not concern, pain but not despair and a deep serenity not
without joy, feeling that it is good that he goes away, that
he has lived, and lived life to the full, and that others will
on the theanthrophy of Christ and ours*, which begins by stating that
wthe salvation, wrought by Christ, takes place in the soul of Man, more
precious than the world, Boulgakov (1982) IX.
168 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
perform even better works than he himself, if they can trust
the Spirit in every one of us.
Yeshua ha nzeri, Jesus of Nazareth is leaving, we all are
leaving. He does not found anything, nor start any religion.
He does not perform the role of a master, a title he did not
like. His time has come and there he goes having fulfilled his
mission, which did not appear to be precisely a grand success.
His only testament is his Spirit.
The assumption of my human condition, the realization
that my time is over and that I should go away, the conviction
that the Spirit should not be stifled nor controlled or directed:
this is the supreme experience which is at the same time the
most common human experience. The Son of Man does not
want exceptions or privileges.
This is the ultimate test. I shall go, I have to go. The
ego will die making room for the Spirit. This is Life, and
Jesus said to his disciples: make me a comparison;
tell me what I am like. Simon Peter said to him:
You are like a righteous angel. Matthew said to
him: You are like a man who is a wise philoso
pher. Thomas said to him: Master, my mouth will
not at all be capable of saying what you are like.
Jesus said: I am not your master, because you
drank (and) became drunken from the bubbling
spring which I have measured out. And he took
him (and) went aside (and) spoke three words to
him. Now when Thomas came (back) to his com
panions, they asked him: What did Jesus say to
you? Thomas said to them, If I tell you one-of the
words that he said to me, you will take up stones
(and) cast (them) at me, and a fire will come forth
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 169
from the stones (and) will burn you up.
The (coptic) Gospel of Thomas, 13
(B.M. Metzgers translation)
1. Eva me suttam
Thus have I heard, that there was a Man who came into
the world and realized that he was one with the Origin of the
Universe, although he was not the Origin, that he had come
from that Source and to the Source he was to return, that
meanwhile, in the intervening time allotted to him, he passed
his life doing good, although without performing anything
pre-planned or truly extraordinary, even if all he did was
intense, achieved, authentic. A just Man who walked around
and did not join any extremist group, seemed to be condoning
everything except hypocrisy, and although he did not make
discriminations he seemed to take the side of the oppressed
and downtrodden, and as such he finished his life. He saw the
Origin originating everything and suffered the impact of the
forces of evil, but had an unlimited confidence in the blowing
of that wind which he called Spirit, pervading everything, so
that this was his only legacy.
He saw himself as a Man. Son of Man, bamasha, he called
himself, and for this very reason discovered for himself and for
others that his humanity was nothing else than the other side
of divinity, inseparable though distinct; so distinct that he
was painfully aware of the existence of sin. Yet inside himself,
as inside every human being, he saw not evil but the kingdom
of heaven. That he preached and lived.
His birth was obscure. Most of his life he passed in the
penumbra, and his death was still more obscure. Yet he did
not feel frustration of any kind, and when tempted by power
he despised it; and when he failed he dared to promise his
real presence not only through the Spirit, but also through
ordinary food and drink. He left a force, power, love, words,
170 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
which he said were not his own. He did not elaborate any
doctrinal system; he spoke the language of his time.
CI have heard something else. I have heard twenty cen
turies of meditations on that Man and scores of doctrinal
systems of all types. I cannot ignore them. And, on the other
hand, I cannot study all of them. Great minds have given us
stupendous syntheses. I have learnt from many of them. But
then I have heard also from other extraordinary human fig
ures of the past, and even the present. Sanctity (to use this
word) may be a rare plant, but it grows in all climates and
I have heard also painful competitions and biased compar
isons, mostly by followers and epigones. I have been almost
forced sometimes to take sides and make personal decisions. A
heard word has come to my rescue: who is not against you is
for you (Lk IX.50; Mk IX.40), although contrary statements
(Mt XII.30; Lk VIII.3) have saved me from literal readings
and interpretations out of context. The you of the commu
nity is not the me of the risen one.
I heard also that we cannot do without the power of dis
cernment, and this has led me to discover the primacy of
the personal experience in order to reach what another tra
dition knows as nitya-anitya-vastu-viveka (discernment be
tween things temporal and eternal which may re-echoed
in a famous work by a now almost forgotten P. Nuremberg).
Having to rely on myself I had to work towards the purifi
cation of my whole being, and this ever-unfinished task has
liberated me from any sort of absolutization of my convic
I have heard so many things that I had to listen more
atentively to the Spirit.
2. Itipasyami
Thus do I see, that Jesus inner life discloses a universal ex
Pa,nikka.r: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
perience. History shows it. But even I, intensity and purity
apart, am capable of understanding and re-enacting that ex
perience. In fact, every Man is able to do this, although the
language, and indeed the doctrines, may be very different,
even mutually irreconcilable.
I am not adopting a dialectical posture, affirming that I do
not hesitate to say I am God, because God said: I am Man.
This would be wrong. I am describing my experience in a
more intimate and personal way. I simply feel that the Divine
is in me and I in that Divine reality; that I experience that
oneness which makes my life truly real. Yet, I equally realise
how far I still am from that fulfillment. In a paradoxical way,
the closer I believe to be to that ideal, the farther away I
feel from it. And when I look around and into human history
I understand the anguished question: How many are those
who reach salvation, fullness, realization? Perhaps the door
opens at the last minute. I do not know. Is it all annihilation,
The kenosis of the Son of Man is not his privilege. It
was not because he was humble; it was because he was Man.
It is perhaps one of the most pregnant manifestations of the
human condition. We are all kenotic, emptied of the divinity
which indwells in each one of us; we are all divested, as it
were, of our most authentic garb; we all, having divine origin
and being temples of the divinity, appear, not only to others,
but also to ourselves as mere slaves, subject to suffering and
death, failure and ignorance. He did not hide it. Only a divine
person can reveal such humanity.
And*yet, I see much more than this. I behold, although I
am clumsy at manifesting it, that not just his life, but also
my life has an infinite value, precisely because it is finite in
its shape and name. It is unique, and thus, incomparable; it
cannot be compared, put on any equal footing with anything.
It is in my finitude, in my concreteness, the consciousness of
172 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
my contingence that I touch (cum-tangere) the infinite, the
I see that the Man of Galilee lived that human condition
of mine, because he shared it. It is this sense of uniqueness
which makes my dignity. Nothing and nobody can replace
me, because my place in the entire universe is irreplaceable.
This is the mystery of Man.
The Son of Man shows +o me that I have to realize myself
also as son of Man, just as Man. Many people tend to iden
tify themselves with the role they perform: citizen, politician,
worker, medical doctor, peasant, parent, spouse. More sub
tle still are the religious identifications: Christian, buddhist,
monk, priest; or spiritual roles like those of a saint, guru,
samnydsin and the like. We should by all means be good in
dividuals and perform our duties. But all these performances
do not exhaust my being, they do not touch the core of what I
ultimately am: a microcosm of the entire reality, an offspring
of the sat-purusa, an image, a complete image of the Divinity.
I know the All, the Father, Brahman, God and (at the same
time) I am a spark, the Son, dtman, creature: the Thou of
the I by virtue of the Spirit. The Man Jesus, as I see him,
realized this union, henosis, as Origen called it (or anakra-
sis) distinguishing it from the hypostatic communion at the
Incarnation which he called koinonia ( Contra Celsum, III,
41). Completely human and fully divine, as the first Coun
cils formulated it. And this is the divine facet of the human
condition common to all of us including Jesus the Christ,
of course.
Indeed, we do not need to denigrate ourselves because we
want to exalt him. Without him we would not know it; we
would not even realize it. He is the Son, the Head, the Cause,
the Saviour . . . But again here, He, like the Kingdom that
comes and is already here, does not appear with ostentation
and fanfare. Even more, He, the mystery which Christians
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ 173
cannot but call Christ has a Supername which may be re
enacted by so many names which we do not know, nor need
to know. cLord, when did we see you . . . V
3. Sat-purusa
The mysticism of Jesus Christ is simply human mysticism.
What else could it be? It is the ultimate experience of Man
precisely as Man. This word stands not for an individual or
a specimen of a human species, but for the fullness of what
we all are. We speak of divinization, but this could be an
alienation if one ceases to be Man. We may believe in annihi
lation, but this may become an evasion if one abandons what
one truly is. We may accept our humanness, but this may be
also synonymous with passive acceptance of our defeat if we
demean what we truly are, or fall into a flat homocentrism
closed to any self-transcendence.
His experience, I dare say, was the pure human experience
transcending all particularities without denying them. Only
by being concrete we can be universal. His experience was not
that of being a male, a jew, let alone a Christian, a member of
a class, caste, party or religion, but just a Man, Son of Man.
This was his kenosis, and thus the possibility to speak to us all
from the bottom of our true humanness, or in whatever name
we want t o express the authentic core of what we truly are.
And paradoxically enough, the more we divest ourselves of all
attributes and roles, the more we are ourselves and discover
us to be completely human and more and more divine.
Since we are human we, as individuals, have to go. All
have gone, including Jesus. Since we are divine, at our going
the Spirit will come. We do not leave reality orphan of our
presence. We have been for ever.
All this may be incompatible with a rigid monotheism.
We are not God; only God is God. But Christ is the Son of
God one with the Father, because the divine Mystery is sheer
174 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Gift, Donation. Or, in traditional words, the Son is begotten
and the Spirit proceeds from the Source. The entire universe
is involved in the process. The entire reality, in Christian lan
guage, I discovered half a century ago, is Father, Christ and
Holy Spirit which later on I called the cosmotheandric
From this experiential level if a saivite or any other per
son should tell me that one does not need Jesus or even the
name of Christ, I would unhesitantly reply: but of course not;
let him go, do not cling to him (Jn XX.17), to that name or
that symbol, otherwise the Spirit will not come to teach us
all truth which unveils to us that nobody has the ^monopoly
of the personal realization. It is fitting that he goes both for
Christians and the others alike. Why do you call me good?
(Jn XVIII.19) The Father is greater than me. (Jn XIV.28)
or, as Marius Victorinus said after converting from neopla
tonism to Christianity around 360: The Father is to the Son
as Nothingness to Being (as ho me on to ho on). In the
kenosis of our ego rises precisely what we truly are.
Any word we use is charged with unavoidable connota
tions, but if I try to describe the mysticism of Jesus the Christ
I will not be able to put it without words. The purusa is all,
says one Vedic rik (RV 10, 90, 2). It all depends on how we
interpret it: Cosmic Man, divine Man, perfect humanity, etc.
Ecce homol said Pilate (Jn XIX.5). Purusottamay Highest
Man (cp. BG VIII.1; X.15; 15; XV.18-19) is the supreme di
vine form (paramam rupam aisvaram), says the Gita (XI.3.9).
If I were to say that Jesus Christ is the one who fully
realized his human condition this would be just a phrase if not
spelt out by saying that this is also our destiny; and it would
be a very limiting statement if explained outside its proper
context: the paramam purusam divyamj divine highest Man
says again the Gita, (VIII.8.10). We are touching ineffability.
We cannot understand mysticism in the third person. We
Panikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
cannot do it in the second person either. But the first person
has to have a partner to speak to, if it has to break the silence.
This partner cannot be an imaginary reader. It has to be a
Thou, an ista-devata, who then turns the tables on me and
converts me unto a thou. Silence is then the final experience
which reveals that the word comes out of Silence by the power
of Love.
Is this the seed of a new christology?
It would be no wonder that to a new epoch in world his
tory should not correspond a new understanding of Jesus the
Christ. Understanding which is not brought about by mere
rehearsal of traditional doctrines (a necessary condition, how
ever) but by a new life in Christ, by that fides oculata which
keeps not looking up to heaven like the Men of Galilee,
but re-enacts the incamatio continua of which also the an
cients (Eckhart) spoke. The healthy reaction of a christology
from below represented by the Liberation Theology needs
the complement of a christology from within, which at the
same time acts as a bridge with the christology from above.
The three are needed. Without spousing an adoptionist chris
tology (God adopts Jesus as his Son) nor a pneumatic one (a
spiritual divine being took flesh in a point of history. In the
Beginning (of time) was not Jesus, but en arch, at the (tem-
piternal) Origin was the alpha and omega, which Christians
call Christ.
Were I to go on putting labels I would speak of a christo-
phany from the centre, which should be distinguished from
the so-called christocentrism. I would remind Christians that
lex orandi, lex credendi, and the others that those liturgi
cal hymns were not just poetical licenses but theocosmologi-
cal insights. [Bellarmino, after all, was right when defending
against Galilei, that we cannot have pure science without
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
an underlying cosmology defective as the cosmology of his
time was]:
Iesu, Redemptor omnium,
Quern lucis ante originem
Parem Paternae gloriae
Pater supremus edidit.
Tu lumen et splendor Patris
Tu spes perennis omnium, . . .
Latin Liturgy of Christmas (Vespers)
Jesus, Redeemer of All,
whom, before lights origin
equal to the Fathers glory
the supreme Father gave birth
You, light and splendour of the Father
You, everlasting hope of all.
In spite that the same hymn sings of the day currens per
anni circulum, and that in the Laudes hymn Christ is again
called Beatus auctor saeculi ( originator of [who gives in
crease to] the temporal age[s]) the western modern receptiorf*
has been, by and large, to read those texts within a linear
conception of time. We could understand them also, more in
tune with the great christological texts of Scripture, within a
different temporal scheme: Since the very Beginning, at the
Origin ( en arch, tn principio) reality was (is) Father, Christ,
Spirit (to use Christian names) and when the fulness of times
came, what we call Incarnation took place (and also time), so
that the manifestation (phanerdsis) of Jesus is a revelation
of reality of what we are. Let us remember that if we do
not make of God an anthropomorphic and composite Being,
the revelation of God can only be God himself (and not just
an outburst of his mind). The Logos of God is God says
the trinitarian insight. The mystery of time is the unfolding,
the distention (Augustin would say) of the Trinity ad extra.
Pauikkar: Mysticism of Jesus the Christ
But outside God there is nothing. The entire reality, and
not only an exclusively transcendent God, is trinity.
I began by describing the Sitz im Leben of this study
which triggered these reflections. I should end by referring to
another wider Sitz, the field of our overall human situation
in the socio-politico-economico-spiritual predicament of three
quarters of those whom we still call our human fellow-beings.
What has a christology to say to all those who will not make
it? Venceremos ( we shall win) is a powerful psychological
shot, but to the thousands, nay, millions of victims who perish
on the way to an each time more problematic Promised land
is either wishful thinking or an alienating drug. We have to
go deeper and owe an answer to the amharez, the dalit, down
trodden and not only economically or politically, but also
spiritually and humanly.
The socio-political implications of this vision should be
clear. That Man Jesus Christ shatters all our dualisms. Qui
fecit utraque unum, sings the Liturgy. And yet this tmum
is neither philosophical monism nor theological monotheism.
The dykaiosyn of the Gospels is not. righteousness (for
heaven) on one side and justice (on earth) on the other.
On earth as it is in heaven says the most popular Christian
prayer. The Son of Man is Son of God. There is no God here,
Man there, and the Earth below; the spiritual and the ce
lestial at the one side, and the material and political at the
other, time now and eternity later, the individual isolated or
the collectivity undifferentiated. He was neither a political
liberator, nor a world-denying ascetic, and much less a mem
ber of the clergy, but just a Being (we have no other word)
living the fulness of humanness which includes the sharing
of the Divine revealing thus what we are called upon to
Once again: Christ as a mere God, even if exclusive Son
of God, does not convince. He did not step down from the
178 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Cross. Christ is not the God of history. A mere Man for
others, a historical hero and wonderful model does not help
either. If once in a while David is lucky, innumerable more
times is Goliath the victor. Where do all revolutions lead us
to? The struggle for Justice is not justified by a prospective
victory (once again linear time) but because it is our human
vocation for the lokasamgraha (upholding of the universe)
would I dare say jumping on to another tradition (BG III, 20
and 25).
In other words. If the mystery of Christ is not our own
mystery, if our christology is not more than archaeology (of
the past) or eschatology (of the future) we better leave it as
a museum piece.
The cry for a new spirituality is a cry of the Spirit. And
it is this Spirit which is the very Spirit of Christ according to
tradition. The christology of the third millennium cannot be
sectarian, nor a mere consolation for believers. The Son of
Man died outside the Holy City.
The within we are timidly suggesting is the inmost depth
of all of us, the abyss where in everyone of us the infinite and
the finite meet, the material and the intellectual, the cosmic
and the divine. The christianness of the third millennium is
called upon to undergo this experience.
H.N. Chakravarty
It is known to everybody that the Divine remains abiding
in everything sentient and insentient, but on account of
some veil we are unable to conceive it in the beginning. But
when we hear about its glory and greatness, its nobleness and
graceful nature from the mouth of a reliable and competent
person who has some definite knowledge regarding its sublime
nature we become eager to approach him knowing definitely
that the Divine is the most lovable, is dear of all dears
the summum bonum of all aims. The supreme aim of human
life is first to realize, later to relish the love of the Divine in
multifarious ways.
Recognition is the sure path to realize ones identification
with the Divine. The common people do not have sufficient
knowledge regarding the concept of pratyabhijfid, the central
concept of the philosophy also called Kashmir 3aivism, orig
inally propagated by Utpaladeva.1 Therefore it is relevant to
throw some light on it. The idea is mostly illustrated by pre
senting an example of how recognition occurred in the life
of a lost prince. The prince was taken away by some rob
bers when he was a small baby. He was reared up by some,
looked after by some others. After a few years when he grew
up to be a young man he was identified by some ministers
as the lost prince. He was brought before the king and with
out disclosing to him his real identity he had been entrusted
with some responsible duties to perform with the purpose of
'See Bibliography in Appendix.
180 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
getting him well-trained in performing the duties of the king
perfectly. When he became excellently ripe the real identity
is revealed to him in the beginning in a general way, that he
belongs to a noble family but later it is disclosed to him that
he was the son of a king. Then it was furthermore brought to
his knowledge that he was the son of the particular king in
whose presence he was just standing. Thus he was brought
face to face to the noble Lord of the domain. In this way
he recognized himself as the prince. This is a simple case of
recognition which begins with recognition in a general way,
but later all the specific attributes belonging to him as his
essential nature follow one after the other in a sequence, only
to fill the bowl which as it were remained empty so long on
account of separation from the Lord.
In the spiritual literature the aspirants way to the Divine
is described as a journey. The course the aspirant follows has
a number of voids, therefore he has to encounter these voids
which are comparatively extensive than the one left behind.
The aspirant feels within that they are nothing but chasms,
gaps between the Lord and him. The aspirant desires to cross
the void, a gap between the lover, the devotee himself and
the beloved, the Divine itself. As the journey continues, the
gap seems to the devotee as if bridged. As this process con
tinues the devotee experiences satisfaction to some extent.
This is known as madhurapdka, gradual fulfilment of the in
ner being.2 But it is to be noted here that direct realization
or Recognition does not occur all at once to all, irrespective
of comparative acquirement of competency. Because the na
ture of seekers varies, some are well-advanced in spirit with
purity of innate essence. Because of the purity of the innate
nature some are bestowed grace by the Lord immediately,
but for others the path of intuitive judgement is to be fol
lowed. It is a wide path along which one can proceed. This
2Cp. Tantraloka III.26061.
Chakravarty: Divine Recognition 181
is the path of knowledge with the characteristic of right form
of reasoning, sattarka. It is known to scholars that tarka, the
path of argument, fails to lead a person to achieve a solid
ground. The Sutra in Vedanta: 'tarkdpratisthdndt. . . ,3 says
that argument is unstable because it is refuted by counter
arguments and so on, for this reason tarka is to be discarded.
But we also know that tarka is an efficient method which
makes unification between two things possible, between one
and the other. It is a sure link a bridge which connects
two entities. Mdlintvijaya Tantra defines Yoga thus:
yogamekatvamicchanti vastunonyena vastund,
MVT IV.4ab
(Wise people) like to define yoga as a unity of one
entity with the other.
Not only that, it serves as a staircase by which one leaves that
which is to be rejected and embraces the one which is to be
accepted. Therefore in the Upanisad tarka has been praised
as a sure means for anusandhdna, a method of unification.
It has further been stated in 3aivism, that tarka is the
best limb of Yoga.4 By the right application of the right form
of reasoning one is able to discern the right from the wrong.5
We live in the world of isolation separate from one another
by creating walls of distinctions of fame and riches, of position
and status, and we live in the island of the ego, ahamkdra.
But when by the grace of guru we are able to see the light
the light which unifies all, brings all in the embrace of the
Divine, we realize oneness, the singleness of Light within.
In order to see the Light we do not require to go fur
ther. It is near, it is everywhere. But first of all we should
realize the Light recognizing it to be the very essence of ME
3 Brahmastra II.1.11.
4 Tarka yogi igam ut t amam.
&Tantrloka IV.15.
182 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
as I. Then it occurs to the aspirant that everything is made
of that Light. It has emerged from it, is made of it. To re
alize that everything that is known as xdam, the object, is
really Brahman, but differentiation, the variousness, the di
visions, the ndndtva is unreal. The reality is one singleness
but multifariousness is also real which shows itself by the dy
namic pulsation of the Divine, dancing in the rhythmic play
of delight. The Divine is nothing but camatkdraikarasa, the
one harmonious uniflavouredness of the experience of joy. So
the delight of the Divine does not reject anything but unifies,
brings all together, if there is really anything separate from it.
The real nature of the Divine is not at all static but dynamic,
by the energy of which He embraces all in one integral cog
nition ( akhandamarsa). But it expands itself and contracts.
Expansion (prasara) is the nature of immanence of the Divine
and contraction ( samkoca) is transcendence. Both are true.
When we are able to recognize his transcendent nature we
only traverse as if half of the journey. Unless we are capable
of seeing or realizing with the light of recognition that every
thing is composed of the Light we fail to achieve the highest
goal. The highest goal only becomes complete when the two
halves meet in unison, in full equilibrium in the union of Siva
and Sakti, the unity of the dynamic with the static.
We know of Umas penance for obtaining Siva as her
beloved husband. 3iva appeared before her in the disguise
of a brahmacarin, a celibate, to bless her with boons. She
was unable to recognize him as Siva himself and rejected all
the boons bestowed on her. But as soon as the real recog
nition as to the reality of Siva dawned forth in her she was
beyond all delights.6
6Cp. Kali dasa, Kumdrasambhavav. 85: On seeing him, the daughter
of the Mountain-lord, all atrembling and her body covered with perspi
ration, and having one foot raised to walk away, was uncertain whether
to go or to stay, like a river hampered by the impediment of a mountain
in the path. (Tr. M.R. Kale)
Cha'ravarty; Divine Recognition
When real recognition as to the divine nature of the devo
tee occurs, one feels within a state of unsteadiness indicating
movement and cessation of movement. It cannot be indicated
by the term movement nor the absence of movement. It is be
yond movement and yet movement infinite. Movement in the
core of rest while in rest it is on move infinitely.
The Saiva doctrine looks into the Reality as having three
aspects. It is composed of three principles known as nara,
sakti and iva, the object, the dynamic instrument and the
Supreme. The object in general is known as nara. The gross
object, the instrument of knowledge and the limited subject
come under nara. The sakti is a link between nara, the ob
ject, and Siva, the supreme subject. Therefore it is essential
that the limited subject for the purpose of unification with
the Supreme should take recourse to sakti which alone is ca
pable of leading the limited self to attain 3iva nature. As in
Christian spirituality the Trinity is the basic principle, so is
Trika in Kashmir 3aivism. It is stated that God the Father,
God the Son and the Holy Spirit are the three units of the
single body of the One. Every being is in essence made of the
love of Christ, the Son. The indwelling Spirit, consciousness
in essence, leads the being to approach the Lord, for without
the help of the awakened sakti real recognition is impossible.
Therefore, realizing this truth, Utpala, the saint, assuming
the role of the guru states in the beginning of the Pratyab-
hijnd Kdrikds:
By means of revealing the dynamic power this
doctrine of Recognition is presented.7
IPK 1.3
The Supreme Divine is eternally abiding in every atom of
existence in the form of action, knowledge and bliss as an
integral unity embracing all in one and is still beyond them.
7 aktyaviskaraneneyam pratyabhijopadaryate.
184 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Though permeating all beings, the hidden (gudhdtmd) one
does not reveal itself.8 The question that suffers the soul of
the seeker is: why the One who is the soul of everything does
not reveal itself to him. Putting this question the devoted
seeker gives the answer himself:
There is, within me,
The tiniest dark spot
That keeps you hidden.
Completely wiping away even that,
Reveal, 0 Lord, your spotless form.
Sivostotrdvali XIII.29
The great Lord composed of imperishable body embracing
the whole world consisting of the bliss of nectar of eternal con
sciousness ( citsudhdrasamaya) remains unattainable so long
as the grace of the Lord does not touch the inner self. Only
when the grace touches the ardent soul then the road opens
to the view of the seeker which leads him from the illusory
to empirical and from empirical to the eternal existence of
infinite bliss of ones own.
According to Pratyabhijnd doctrine every being is in
essence perfectly free (paripurna svatantra) and blissful. It
is the perfect equilibrium of knowledge and activity, but on
account of the veiling and delusive power of mat/a, the pure
light, the real nature of the Lord, remains out of reach. Only
those on whom the grace of the Divine has dawned, can re
alize what their real nature is ( ayatadrdha saktipdtasya).
The principal requisite for bestowing good to others is
the recognition of ones own nature that it is none else than
divinity, the most auspicious Siva. When one is able to rec-
ognize Siva to be ones own self, one attains the state of the
Besa sarvesu bhutesu gudhotma na prakdi at e, Katha Up. III.12.
9Trans. by C. Rhodes Bailly, Shaiva Devoti onal Songs of Kashmi r,
SUNY Press, 1987.
Chakra.va,rty: Divine Recognition
Supreme Godhead. This supreme Self is unlimited light pos
sessing all-transcending power which leads the seeker to at
tain the highest of human goals.
The doctrine as presented in the Pratyabhijnd JKdrikds by
Utpaladeva and a detailed exposition of it as has been given
by Sri Abhinavaguptacarya in two of his commentaries, the
one long and the other a little shorter, is the source of the
present paper.
Pratyabhijnd is ordinarily translated in English as recog
nition, a kind of direct perception of the one which was once
directly known but on account of the play of deluding power
called mdyd is forgotten but it is cognised again as if face to
face ( sdmmukhyena).
The term pratyabhijnd has been analytically defined by
rl Abhinavagupta in the commentary called Vimarsini in
the following way:
Recognition is a knowledge of the Light as facing
the self reversely.10
IPV p. 19
The above definition contains three components viz. prati,
abhi and jnd which mean prati towards, abhi face to face
and j nd 'means knowledge. The whole sentence then means
direct knowledge of ones own self face to face.
Manifestation of ones own self is not a new experience
which was not experienced before, for the Light, the real
essence of the self is an unbroken Light ( sakrt vibhdtoyamd-
tmd). It shines once and remains shining eternally but the
power which is inseparably united with it, creates in the
unbroken flow of light an illusion of cleavage, a break as it
were which shows itself in the form of vikalpa, determinate
knowledge. Because of this the notion of vikalpa makes its
appearance in the form that this is of this character, not
prat tpam atmbhimukhyena j anam prakaah pratyabhijS.
186 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
of this: idam ittham ndnittham. But when real pratyabhijfid
shines forth, it is the unification of experiences of what ap
peared before ( bhata bhdsamdnarupdnusandhdndtmikd). This
unification of experiences is the very life of pratyabhijfid or
pratyabhijna itself.11
In the spiritual tradition of India three stages regarding
the journey of the seeker for truth are generally accepted.
The first is prabodhana, real awakening. It is followed by
sdmmukhya, coming face to face with the Lord. Then the
stage of sambodhana, addressing the Lord as ones own dear.
The soul remains overpowered in deep slumber which in the
language of Agama is the state of pasu or jtva with limited
knowledge and activity. During the period of slumber the
jiva has little knowledge regarding its real nature. It has no
leanings for knowing the truth both of the ultimate and the
essence of his own nature. But when the slumber begins to
break the question what his real nature is, arises in his inner
soul. Then he feels an urge for knowing the purpose of his ex
istence and the real goal. It is known to all that grace of the
Lord does not occur in a person by supplication and prayer
( updyaih na sivo bhdti), but shines only spontaneously. It is
a well-accepted view that grace is one of the Lords five func
tions. Therefore we are unable to show any reason when He
will show grace to anybody. As veiling ( tirodhana) of His own
nature is the play of His, in the same way anugraha is also
another aspect of His functions, therefore individual initia
tive is of no value regarding when it will touch the soul. As
soon as the fall of grace ( anugrahasaktinipdta) occurs it not
only purifies the soul of the seeker but rouses him up from
the deep slumber in which he was lying deadly asleep. The
awakening pf the soul opens to the view of the seeker a new
vista along which he will have to approach the beloved.
11 Svatmavabhdso hi na ananubhutapQrvovi cchinnaprakasatvat t asya,
IPV, p. 20.
Cha.kra.va.rty: Divine Recognition 187
The Malinivijaya Tantra12 has described three means for
absorption in Siva. By adopting one of these means the in
dividual is able to attain the ultimate end of life. They are
named as sdmbhava, sdkta and anava. They are denoted by
the terms will, knowledge and activity, respectively. With
out taking recourse to any one of them which are directly
linked with Siva (saivtmukham), it is impossible to have re
alization of ones true nature. The means called sdmbhava
is of the nature of icchd (will) which implies pratyabhijnd in
which everything whatever it may be, shines as a reflection in
a mirror by the will of the Divine.13 This Divine is the sup
port or the bearer of the reflection which assumes the form
of the universe. This implies the immanence of the Lord in
creation. This universe is the domain that brings conscious
ness in manifestation ( caitanyasya vyaktisthdnam) by means
of cognition ( dmarsana). In the language of Abhinavagupta it
is speech ( vdk) or reflected consciousness, or in another word
it is called paranada, the supreme sound. It eternally pulsates
in the transcendental cognition as its essential nature, aham,
in the form of I.
But those whose understanding is not so refined and
whom the grace of the Divine has not touched so keenly con
ceive them as bound in the morass of existence. On account
of vikalpa, thought constructs, the beings think themselves
bound. Because of the presence of these vikalpas one can
not cross the world of bondage and remains bound by false
views regarding the world and the self. Thought constructs
are the play of mdtrkds (syllabic sounds) which go on creat
ing thoughts or concepts. They are ever engaged in veiling
the real nature of beings. It is stated in the Spanda Kdrika
The powers are ever in readiness to conceal his
12MVT 11.21-23.
13Cp. the article by B.N. Pandit in this Volume..
188 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
own nature,
for without the association of words, ideas cannot
| 4
Sp Ka m. 15
It seems relevant to say that thought constructs are of two
types, the one is impure which is the source of bondage, but
the other is pure which really is the dynamic energy of the
Supreme. When it is known rightly by the seeker it leads one
to attain the highest end of ones life.
Therefore one must get rid of impure vikalpas by sowing
the seeds of pure vikalpas. One should approach a teacher
(sadguru). It is from him that he is able to know &bout the
truth. Then he further confirms his right understanding by
studying the texts. The order that he follows is the teacher,
then the scriptures and finally ones own intuition: gurutah,
from guru, sdstratah, from texts, svatah, from ones own in
tuitive knowledge. It is only by his intuitive judgement ( sat-
tarka) that one can ascertain the real nature of the things and
is able to discern what is to be rejected and which should be
accepted. The impure vikalpas are the forces standing in op
position to those of pure vikalpas, but the latter are able to
uproot those vikalpas which put the soul enticed with the
worldly existence.
The path the awakened soul treads on along the journey
to his goal has certain stages of spiritual development. In the
beginning it starts when the seeker receives the grace of the
teacher (gurukrpd). Then follows the disciples competency
in consulting the Agamic texts which contain material that
is really helpful for understanding the truth. It is quite rele
vant to say that real conviction regarding the Truth does not
arise or shine forth until it spontaneously manifests in ones
own nature (svatah). The text shows to him the vision of
14 svardpdvarane cdsya saktayah satatot thi tah
yat ah iabdanuvedhena na vi nd prat yayodbhavah
Chakravarty: Divine Recognition
recognition indirectly and guides his understanding to grasp
the truth following the five-formed syllogism. The text begin
ning with kathamcidasadyd1and so on is a statement about
recognition. It is a summary of the subject-matter, uddesa.
The mid-portion of the work states the reasons ( hetvadi) and
the last verse it prakatito mayd, thus I have shown etc.
is the conclusion. Thus, the work, that is, a text like the
Isvarapratyabhijnd Kdrikd which presents the subject-matter
in a syllogistic form including five terms, serves as a means
of recognition to instruct others, and that is its object.15
The doctrine named Pratyabhijnd is a unique spiritual
tradition. It is a path that leads everyone to realize the Divine
within ones own being. It is not only a means ( updya) but at
the same time it is the ultimate end ( upeya). Everybody can
embrace it whether one has earned competency ( adhikdra) or
not. Utpaladeva, the author of the doctrine, being so graceful
to the mortal world plunged in the sea of troubles, utters in
the same strain of the Vedic seers for delivering good to the
Let all the sons of immortality listen
These celestial abodes were
Well-established in You.16
After realizing recognition, Utpaladeva, the divine teacher
in order to shower grace to the world says:
Having somehow realized my identity with the
Supreme and wishing to render service to human
ity, I am establishing self-recognition which is a
15etam prat yabhij natavya samast a vastu samgrahanena idam vdkya-
muddesarupam prat ij napindat makam ca, madhyagranthastu hetvadi-
nirupakah it i prakatit o ma y d it i ca antyaSloko nigamanagranthah,
i t yevam pahcdvayavat makami dam sast ram paravyutpatt iphalam. IPV un
der verse 1.
16srnvant u vi sve amrt asya putrdh, a ye dhamani di vyani tasthuh,
Rgveda X.13.1c.
190 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
means of attaining all that is of value.17
This opening verse of Pratyabhijnd Kdrikd contains some very
meaningful words: janasydpyupakdramicchan, after realizing
his identity with the divine the author feels an urge within
to deliver it to the world. He takes up the method of be
stowing it by means of prakhyd and then updkhyd. First re
alizing the light of the divine in himself, he wants to bestow
it to others by means of reflected consciousness, by placing
those who pass from one existence to the other (jand) near
( samipam) the Lord in order that they may attaindihe near
ness of all the good belonging to the Lord (paramesvara dhar-
masamipatdkaranam). That is, they are given the pure nectar
or essence in such a way that they may realize oneness with
the divine essence, knowledge and activity abiding insepara
bly with the Lord.18
According to the doctrine, whatever shines is the Divine
in essence. The objects that appear as jar externally and that
shine as pleasure or pain internally, when seen in their essence
they are nothing but light. But it is quite relevant to mention
here that this light is not simply a light that floods everything
and then obliterates, but it is such alight that not only makes
the body of all appear as ones own body, but it pulsates as
the very life of everything. Everything shines as composed
of the light. Everything that is manifest is simply his glory
sarvo mamdyam vibhavah. It is an all-pervasive light encom
passing all, which unifies all with the divine by demolishing
the barrier of separation. Abhinavagupta states the funda
mental insight in his commentary, which we may summarize
17kathanci dasadya mahei varasya
dasyam janasydpyupakdrami cchan,
samast asampat samavdpt i het um
tatprat yabhij namupapadaydmi.
l *dharma = drk and kriyd.
Cha.kra,varty: Divine Recognition
The inner self, which is called posu and is referred to as
I, is not different from the Supreme Self, who is essentially
the light of consciousness, grasping both the subject and the
object: on the contrary, I am the transcendental being, and
He is I. There is no difference between the two.19 For the real
seeker of the truth anusandhdna, unification of everything
as one and viewing all as an integral unity of the light of
consciousness, is a process which certainly leads one to attain
the greatness of Siva. He gives in his commentary in a nutshell
how the process of unification occurs.
The category of earth cannot exist without the
category of water, for it is in the medium
of firm-support ( dhrti) only that solidity is
found All these realities are simply nothing
without Bhairava who is absolutely autonomous
and the very quintessence of perfect Light.20
P.T.V., Tr. Jaideva Singh, p. 117
In other words the recognition of Supreme Consciousness
is an easy approach for the attainment of the true self.
It is stated with emphasis that only by means of inquiry
(anvesanq) into the source of pramd, the light of conscious
ness which lends its light to the distinctly manifest objects
like blue and pleasure, one is able to attain the Supreme Con
sciousness. Therefore, SrT Abhinavagupta writes:
The attainment of the true self is possible only
through close unification of right knowledge re-
19IPV IV.1.12.
20 na bhavanti ca dharadtni utt arot t arat at t vam
j al adi purvapurvam vi na . . . sarvameva cedam prat hamdnam
svat antraparipurnaprathdsdrabhairavam vi na. P.T.V, pp. 47-48.
192 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
gardlng well-manifest objects like blue and plea
sure and so on.21
IPV 1.1
The limited form of knowledge shines as separated from the
all-inclusive light of the Lord. Thus the limited one gets its
fulfilment even though it rests in the source, the very light.
But for the limited soul the act of swinging from this ( idam)
to I ( aham) always continues resting in the object and later
in the subject touching the two ends first in the objective
level and next in the level of the subject. The rest ( visranti)
at the level of the object is relative, while the rest that oc
curs at the level of the subject is relative-cum-absolute. With
the attainment of the light absolute (pdramdrthika) which is
an unbroken continuum, everything then shines as composed
of light. But on account of the will of the Lord a cleavage
shows itself within that single one, with the result that this
first appears very indistinctly, then it shines distinctly as if
completely separate from the light, the main-spring of every
thing. But aham, that is I, remains all the time linked with
the object. This truth remains veiled to the view of the lim
ited consciousness but as soon as the truth is realized even for
a moment, or in other words, when the glimpse of recognition
dawns in a soul, he feels all at once that the object he sees,
the delicacy he feels, the sweet sound he hears is nothing but
the manifestation of the light of consciousness and he himself
is shining within that ( nijantaragatam). It is also stated in
the text:
All the appearances ( dbhdsas) are essentially of
the nature of consciousness, so they always exist
IPK 1.8.7
21 .iphutatarabhdsamananilasukhSdiprxxmanvesanadvartnaiva
paramarthika pramatrlabhah KSTS Vol. I, p. 18.
21 cinmayatvevabhdsanamantareva sthitih sada.
Chakravarty: Divine Recognition
The manifestations have their existence in the
light of consciousness of the universal Subject.
Whether they be in the state of internality or
externality, they are essentially of the nature of
IPV 1.8.7
In the language of the devotee we may say that though the
Supreme Lord is abiding very near, we are unable to real
ize him until we attain the true insight. The devotee knows
rightly what He really is, so he states with conviction:
0 Lord of the Gods!
You are an object of incessant worship
By the great ones,
But are yourself a worshipper.
Here in this world
You are an object of vision
From both within and without,
But are yourself a seer.
Sivastotravali IV.2524
Though Utpaladeva was a staunch non-dualist, he was also
a true bhakta, devotee, who always tread along the path of
delightful devotion ( bhakti) par excellence. It is such a state
which is-an equilibrium of both devotion and knowledge. De
votion is nothing but enjoyment of the highest bliss of absorp
tion in multifarious ways which dissolves all obstacles on one
hand and on the other makes the devotee worthy to realize^
the great Brahman everywhere and in every situation.
Therefore with the consciousness
Of the true essence of things
a 3 i7ia av abhas anam sadai va bahyat abhas at adabhavayoh
dpi ant ar eva pr amdt r pr ak ds a cva. sthi ti h, yal a ct e c i nmay ah
24Traus. by C. Rhodes Bailly, as also the following quotations.
That emanates from the removal of
The obstacles to the nectar of your non-duality
Make me worthy, 0 Lord of the Gods,
Of the worship of your feet.
3ivastotrdvali XII.5
SrT Abhinavagupta defines bhakti as absorption in the highest
bliss (paramanandavesa), by the force of which the devotee
realizes brahmasattd, the presence of Brahman in every state
( sarvdsvavasthdsu).25
Absorption ( samdvesa) in the Supreme is really devotion
which does not at all tarnish non-duality but adds brightness
to it.26 Regarding the three stages referred to above that the
aspirant has to pass through, these are: prabodhana, awak
ening of the soul. It occurs only through descent of grace
followed by the offering of initiation by the spiritual teacher
( sadguru). It is then followed by sdmmukhya of the aspirant
which means that the aspirant realizes face to face the glory
of the Lord. This is not all. When the aspirant experiences the
delightful union with the Lord he feels an anguish for quench
ing his thirst for nectar over and over again. It is termed as
a great festivity (pujana mahotsava) where meditation goes
on spontaneously. The Truth is meditated upon without the
aid of verbal media. It continues in the core of the heart as
reflection of Light in a clear mirror. This meditation has been
given a very clear exposition in the Tantrdloka:
The light is self-manifest and is perfectly free. It is
in essence pure consciousness and abides steadily
in the heart. Though every category is composed
of it yet his meditation is to be performed in
the recess of the heart. The knower of the Truth
25Cp. iPVVim Vol. I, p. 29.; cp. also Gftarthasamgraha XII.2:
mahcsvaryavi sayo yescim samavcsah akrtrimast anmayfbhavah.
26Cp. Gitdrtha Samgraha XII.
194 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Chakravarty: Divine Recognition 195
perceives the Lord in the inner sanctum of the
Tantraloka V.20-21
The author clarifies the view with the simile of the flower
of the plantain tree. As the outer covers of the flower when
peeled off one after the other the flower inside makes its ap
pearance, in the same way the seeker of the Truth should
delve deep after removing the outer coverings which are noth
ing but all the principles, some gross and some subtle; then
he is able to stand face to face or directly realize the effulgent
light of the Lord.
If we are allowed to follow the krama, the sequence may
be as follows:
Let there be that great festival of worship
Where the Supreme Lord himself
Is meditated upon, seen and touched.
Be always mine through your grace.28
Sivastotravalt XIII.6
The order that is seen in the journey of the aspirant is dhydna,
meditation in the beginning. At the ripeness of meditation
the visionxof the Divine Beloved makes its appearance. This
vision is real, not a creation of the mind. The eager look of
the devotee sees at a distance a glimpse of the Divine and he
is keen to have his vision in the core of the heart. This vision
of the beloved makes the aspirant assured that the day is not
far away when he will be able to embrace bim. The eyes of the
beloved speak of this by his compassionate look. At this stage
he goes on looking constantly at Him. By the words drsyate
svayam the Supreme Lord gives his own vision without any
27 yah prakaiah svatantroyam, citsvabhavo hrdi ithitah,
sarvatattvamayah .. Tksate hrdayantastham tatpusparniva tattvavit.
2dhyayate tadanu drsyate tatah, sprsyate ca paramesvarah svayam,
yatra pQjana mahotsavah sa me sarvadastu bhavato nubhavalah.
196 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
external aids. Then occurs the ultimate contact. This is indi
cated by the word sprsyate, touched. All these steps occur
by the grace of the Lord not outside but in the void of con
sciousness ( ciddkdsa). Then the stage that becomes manifest
to the devotee now is that of the relation of Thou and I. The
devotee is then able to address his beloved as Thou, that is
in the second person. Though there is the absence of duality
at this stage yet separateness remains manifest so long as a
total merging does not come about. The devotee always likes
to maintain his separateness, a sort of distance from the Lord
in order to relish bliss with its numerous facets untihthe bowl
of emptiness becomes completely full.
According to the Saiva doctrine of Kashmir devotion has
not been given so much importance as we find it in the
Vaisnava tradition. The Vaisnavas are regarded by the Ad-
vaita 3aivas as established in the lower level of spiritual de
velopment, for to them bhakti is only an attachment ( rdga),
and as such it leads them to attain a certain stage, not the ul
timate. But to Utpaladeva bhakti is a great treasure.29 Those
who are richly endowed with the blessing of devotion do not
require anything for their need. It is known as pardbhakti,
the sublime form of devotion. It flourishes in the aspirant.
When he attains steadiness in devotion that is when proper
maturity in the realization of the non-dual nature of the Lord
occurs he feels himself the real recipient of everything that
the Master showers on him ( diyate asmai sarvam).
Sri Abhinavagupta also does not lag behind when he
speaks of devotion with high spiritual fervour thus:
Now I, who am your devotee, having become
transformed into you, am as if composed of your
essence. On seeing you or realizing you as my own
29Cp. bhaktUaksmisamrddhanam kimanyadupayScitam, I PV 1.1.
Chakra.va.rty: Divine Recognition 197
self, I pay obeisance to you and me over and over
Mahopadesa Vimsatikd V.4
These quotes definitely stand as a sound proof that thinkers
like Utpaladeva and Sri Abhinavagupta did not hold any dis
paraging views regarding bhakti, rather it adds brightness and
beauty to the tenet of non-duality.
Following the text of Pratyabhijfid, I shall now proceed to
explain how divine recognition is transmitted to others. It is
well-known to the people in general that the spiritual teacher
guides the disciple by giving him initiation so that he may
proceed along the noble path leading to liberation. Knowl
edge of the highest kind is transmitted to the disciple, by
whose power the latent impression lying in him is destroyed.
And after the fall of the body he attains Sivahood.
This in short is the description of the formal type of initi
ation. But as the nature or the innate characteristic of every
human being differs, initiation and spiritual practice which
follows it also differ. Therefore for some sattarka, the right
form of judgment, is the means which paves the way for the
person of ripe intuition and acumen of intelligence to realize
the noblfe Truth by himself (svatah). But it should be re
membered here that before proceeding along the path it is
essential that he should first of all receive a glimpse of the
Divine by the kindness of the teacher.
It is quite relevant here to state how direct knowledge
of the divine recognition arises in the disciple. SrT Abhinav
agupta says that the teacher, who has already attained iden
tity with the Divine, is endowed with all the glories of the
Lord. He is the embodied form of Siva himself. He is said
to be the bimba, the source or original image, while the do
main of the heart of the disciple which has become perfectly
30bhavad bhakt asya samj al abhavadr upasya m e dhund,
t vdmdt mar upam sampr eksya t ubhyam in ah yam namonamaf u
198 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
pure like the mirror, is capable of receiving the light as re
flection (pratibimba). The analogy that is used in this context
is called bimba-pratibimba nyaya, the analogy of the source
and the reflection. The source (6im6a) is one but the reflec
tions may be many. Therefore the teacher representing bimba
is able to bestow good to many.
The doctrine of Pratyabhijnd is a means ( updya) to at
tain liberation or revelation of ones own Siva nature.31 It
is a means by which recognition comes about. It is the way
leading to the ultimate goal which is also known as recog
nition. Recognition as such may be called the penultimate
goal which terminates in the manifestation of Lordship with
all His glory as a single light32 in ones own being. Ordinary
people who do not have any knowledge regarding its nature
and about the goal to which it leads, if they hear by chance
that a person who has realized his identity with the Supreme,
the most desirable of all desires, and established His Recog
nition, is desirous of doing good to all troubled with birth
and death and bestow grace to them, the final release be
comes assured to them. They receive recognition as reflection
reflected from the original source. The sure knowledge of the
fact makes them aware of the truth in the first stage, but as
soon as they become intent on taking the course of recogni
tion, they reach the second stage. In this stage they imagine
themselves free from the limitations of time. The third stage
manifests itself when they realize the steady recognition of
perfection in their own nature. This process has been indi
cated by the grammatical terms third and first persons.
The meaning denoted by the term third person
terminates in the meaning denoted by the first
person.33 IPV v.I, p.27
31 prat yabhij nayate an ay a.
32samastasampal laksana paramaisvaryaikarupaprathanam.
33prathamapurusdrthah uttamapurusarthe paryavasyati .
Chakravarty: Divine Recognition
In the above way we have tried to give a summary view of the
doctrine of recognition. It is relevant to say something regard
ing the nature of sattarka, the right type of judgement. The
system known as Pratyabhijna is not a text of logic though
it involves some arguments and counter arguments only to
help the seeker of the Truth to stand steadily on the stable
ground of conviction free from doubts and misconception.
The author presents the doctrine of Recognition by bring
ing to view, that is in the sphere of perception, the power of
drk and kriyd, knowledge and action which are inseparably
united with the Lord, so that taking recourse to them one is
able to recognize ones own self.
When finally the devotee realizes recognition he feels that
everything shines in the light of the divine as one with it.
Being self-luminous
You cause everything to shine;
Delighting in your form
You fill the universe with delight;
Rocking with your own bliss
You make the whole world dance with joy.
Sivastotrdvali XIII. 15
Meister Eckhart and the Lure of the Desert
Sr. Brigitte
Meister Eckhart himself says, all his sermons have one theme
only, namely the Birth of God in the Soul.1 This is worked
out in detail in Sermons 1 and 2, and is mentioned in the
majority of the sermons. There are, however, lesser themes
of which I have chosen a few.
Let God Be God
According to his earthly existence man is a contingent being,
owing its existence to another. Eckhart uses the example of
branch and tree or a face in a mirror. The branch is the
work of the tree and has no existence apart from the tree,
and yet the tree is incomplete without it. The image in the
mirror is the exact replica of the person represented, yet is
totally dependent on that person. The end and purpose of the
spiritual life is not to become aware of the indwelling presence
of God; gather man must come to understand himself just as
he is as the expression of the divine reality. Man is divine
life. God and I are One, Eckhart does not tire to assure
his readers or listeners. God manifests himself in man. For
as long as man is not aware of this he remains the prisoner
of his ego, but once he discovers the illusory and transient
nature of the ego, duality is transcended. He can see through
things into their reality. Then he can let God be God. Let us
hear Eckhart himself:
'For an introduction to Meister Eckharts life and times, see the ap
pendix which will provide the necessary background.
202 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
At the point where the image enters, God de
parts with all his divinity, but where the image
departs, there God enters. Well, my friend, what
harm does it do you to let God be God in you? Go
entirely out of yourself for Gods sake, and God
will go entirely out of himself for your sake. When
these both depart, what remains is a simple One.
In this One the Father gives birth to his Son in
the innermost source.2
This ego, which prevents man from letting God be God in
him, is not evil. It is an essential part of man, and its func
tion is to express the self. However, like the faculties and
the intellect, it is mortal and will pass away with the body.
This the ego cant accept, since it considers itself to be the
true person. Eckhart of course does not use the term ego but
self-seeking or mit Eigenschaft in the Middle-high-German
of his time, which meant with attachment to self. In his ser
mons, specially sermon 6, he applies it to the attitude of
religious people towards their piety and good works. Thus he
talks of people who perform works like fasting, vigils, prayers,
in order to obtain something from God in return. These he
calls merchants, for they trade with the Lord, and he throws
them out of the temple. The sellers of doves are not thrown
out, but they are scolded for they are too attached to the
performance of their good works, though they do not try to
trade with God.
Eckhart uncovers the self-deception of the human heart in
so much that passes for religion: the covert glance for recogni
tion and reward, the longing for praise. To give one example:
Many people imagine themselves to be holy and
perfect; they use big words, and yet they desire
so much and long to possess so much, have such
2 Vol. 1, p. 118.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart 203
a high opinion of themselves, and imagine them
selves very recollected, and yet they cannot accept
one word (of rebuke) without justifying them
selves. You can be sure that they are far from
Like other mystical writers Eckhart speaks of an uncreated
something in the soul or of the little spark of the soul, deeply
buried under layers of self-seeking. If man succeeds in dying
to his ego-love by a mystical death from this imprisonment
in time and space and the beguiling variety of creatures, then
the birth of the Son takes place in the soul.
Eckhart advises his listeners to throw out of their souls
the saints and our Lady and even their thoughts about God,
e.g. that he is good, just, wise. He tells his startled audience:
If I say God is good it is not true. I am good,
God is not good! I would even say: I am better
than God. For what is good can become better.
But now God is not good and therefore cannot
become better. . . . The most perfect thing a man
can say of God, out of the wealth of his inner
wisdom is to keep silence. So be silent and dont
prattle about God.4
Anjl dont dress him up in the clothes of his at
tributes or his names of Father, Son and Holy
Spirit, but take him in his dressing room where
he is an undifferentiated One.
A Master says, if I had a God whom I could know, I would
never regard him as God: Whatever you know about him, he
is not that. . . . So know nothing about the God who cannot
be pronounced in the word God !
3 Vol. 2, p. 6.
4 Vol. 2, p. 332.
204 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
What should I do then?
You must die entirely to yourself and flow into His self,
and your Your in his 4His shall become one My, so perfectly
one that with him you will realise his uncreated being and
his unnamable nothingness.5
To let God be God demands the extreme of spiritual
Who seeks nothing and desires nothing save God alone,
to him God gives and discovers all that lies hidden in his
divine heart.
That is why I am going to lure her and lead her
out into the wilderness and speak to her heaidJ
(Hosea 2:16)
Given Eckharts understanding of the relationship of God
and man, it is not surprising that he should question our
understanding of prayer: People often say to me, Tray for
me! Then I say to myself, why do you go out of yourself?
Why not remain within and use the wealth that is yours?
You have the fullness of truth in yourself.6 All creatures
are a nothing. He who seeks a nothing cannot complain if he
finds nothing. He only found what he was looking for.7
Prayer and praise are effective in proportion as the soul
is like God, for: What is like God in the soul praises God,
in the same way as a painting praises its master, who has
imprinted his art on it. The prayer that can be expressed
with the mouth is unworthy of God.8
In reality we need ask God for nothing, for he is always
more ready to give than we to ask. Indeed, God can.no more
5Vol. 2, p. 333.
Vol. 1, p. 119.
7Vol. 1, p. 284.
8 Vol. 1, p. 259.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart 205
do without us than we can do without him. Even if it were
true that we can turn away from God, God can never turn
away from us. I will not ask God to give me anything, nor
will I praise him for giving it to me. Rather I will ask him
to make me worthy of receiving, and praise him that it is his
nature that he must give.9
If a man thinks he will get more of God by med
itation, by devotions, by ecstasies or by a special
infusion of grace, than by the kitchen stove or
in the stable - that is nothing but taking God,
wrapping a cloak around his head and shoving
him under a bench. For whoever seeks God in a
special way gets the way and misses God, who lies
hidden in it. But whoever seeks God without any
special way gets him as he is in himself, and that
man lives with the Son and is life itself.10
The same teaching is found out at length in the sermon on
Martha and Mary, where in contrast to the obvious meaning
of the gospel passage and all commentators on it, Eckhart
insists that it is Martha who is praised by the Lord, for Mary
is attached to him by her emotions, while Martha serves him
while going about her work. As Mary matures spiritually she
will also become a Martha.
Eckhart advises us never to ask for perishable things. If
we must pray let us pray for Gods will and for nothing else:
We deafen God day and night and shout, your
will be done! and when Gods will is done we
are angry. That is not right. When our will be
comes Gods will, that is good; but when Gods
will becomes our will, that is far better. If your
9Vol. 1, p. 101.
10Vol. 1, p. 116.
206 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
will becomes Gods will, if you fall ill, you would
not wish to be well contrary to Gods will, though
you might wish that it be Gods will that you
should be well. And if you are still ill, in Gods
name! If your friend dies in Gods name!11
In another sermon we read:
The just man does not need God, for what I have
I do not need. He serves God for no reward; he
has God so he needs no reward. In all his do
ings a man should turn to God and look to God
alone. Let him go forward confidently, not consid
ering whether what he does is right or wrong. One
should follow the first intuition, then one reaches
the state where one should be.12
However, Eckhart remains human! In a delightful passage he
says: Sometimes in times of prayer I say these words: Lord,
what we ask of you is so small! If anyone were to ask me for
it, Id do it for him. And it is a hundred times easier for you,
and you will do it more willingly. The greater the.jequest,
the more willingly you give.13
And, God is ready to give great things if we are ready
to leave all things to his goodness.
The Birth of the Son of God in the Heart of Man
Under this imagery Eckhart develops his mystical teaching.
He deals with the subject fully in two sermons, but, as he
says, it is the theme of all his teaching. Eckhart may not
have known St. Athanasius saying, God became man that
man might become God, but he quotes St. Augustine: What
11 Vol. 1, P. 92.
12Vol. 2, p. 78.
13Vol. 1, p. 119.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart
does it avail me that this birth is always happening, if it does
not happen in me? That it should happen in me is what
matters. In the same sermon he quotes John 1:11,12 . .as
many as received it (the light) became in authority sons of
God; to them was given power to become sons of God.14
fWe shall therefore speak of this birth, of how it may
take place in us, and be consummated in the virtuous soul.
Eckhart warns here and elsewhere that only those who are
serious about prayer and are absolutely pure and live in no
ble fashion, and are collected and turned inward, are capable
of this experience. Not running out through the five senses
into the multiplicity of creatures, but all inturned and col
lected and in the purest part (of the soul). He (God) disdains
anything less.
The birth takes place in the ground of the soul, also
known as the little spark or the castle, or the desert of the
Godhead, which is so pure that no image ever enters.
In the souls essence there is no activity. Here is
nothing but rest and celebration for this birth,
this act, that God the Father may speak his Word
there, for this part is receptive of nothing but the
divine essence without mediation. Here God en
ters the soul with his all.
An imaginary question: How does God the Father give birth
to the Son in the soul? Eckhart answers that the Father
unites himself with the soul, and in that real union lies the
souls whole beatitude.
Therefore you have to be and dwell in the essence
and in the ground, and there God will touch you
with his simple essence without the intervention
of any image. And therefore there must be a si
lence and a stillness, and the Father must speak
14This and the following quotations are from Vol. 1, Sermon 1.
208 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
in that, and give birth to his Son and perform his
work free from all images.
A second question: Is it better to do something towards this,
to imagine and think about God? Or should he keep still and
silent in peace and quiet and let God speak and work in him,
merely waiting for God to act?
Eckhart repeats that his works are meant for good and
perfected people only. These must know that the very best
attainment in this life is to be silent and let God speak and
work within. The more completely you are able to draw in
all your powers to a unity and to forget all the things and
images which you have absorbed, the nearer you are to this.
And so, if God is to speak his Word in your soul, she must
be at rest and in peace.
This is very strange language for anyone accustomed to
a Jesus mysticism. It has to be seen in the context of Eck
harts understanding of creation pre-existing ideally in the
Godhead before becoming actual, existing as the thought and
archetype of creation. In the beginning Godhead IS, before
any differentiation into Persons. This state Eckhart refers
to as What I was before I was.
When I was in the Ground, the Stream, the
Source of the Godhead, no one asked me where I
was going or what I wanted or what I was doing;
there was no one who might have asked me.15
Creation is a flowing, multiplicity flowing out of unity. Only
now can God be known or named.
When I flowed out all creatures spoke about
God. Why do they not speak about Godhead?
All that is in the Godhead is One and one can
not speak of it. God and Godhead are totally
different. They have nothing in common.
15This and the following quotations are from Vol. 2, Sermon 56.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart
But flowing o u f must necessarily culminate in a return, a
return that is far nobler than the flowing out. The spearhead
of this return is mans birth as Gods Son in the bosom of
the Godhead.
When I come into the Ground, the Depth, the
Stream and the Source of the Godhead, no one
asks me where I have been or whence I have come.
No one there missed me, for there God ceases to
You shall love God as a non-God, a non-Spirit,
a non-Person, nay more, as a pure, mere, bright
One, distinct from all duality. And in this One
we shall sink away eternally, from Something to
Our difficulty with Eckhart is our incapacity to escape from
time. The flowing out and the return are not processes in
time. In a sense we always are, always have been and always
will be in our Source, in the Godhead. Time and space, for
all their apparent reality, are illusory. The breakthrough is
precisely our birth in the Godhead.
The Way of Emptiness
Western mysticism has been deeply marked by suffering,
whether in the form of dark nights, of intense physical pain
or a sense of desolation, or a sharing in the passion of Christ.
On the surface there is surprisingly little about suffering in
Eckharts sermons. The cross is only mentioned twice, both
times in quotations from the Bible. Where suffering does fig
ure, it is often to say that it is transitory, that like darkness,
it has to yield when light comes. In one longer passage he
states that whatever God sends is always best. It may not
16Vol. 2, p. 335 (cp. p. 333).
210 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
seem to be best of the time, but it is Gods chosen way for
our advancement. In a treatise called The Book of Divine
Consolation Eckhart deals in detail with pain and suffer
ing. It was written for the young Queen of Hungary after the
assassination of her father. It is a difficult work and speaks
much for her intelligence and spiritual maturity.
In the principal part Eckhart cites some thirty examples,
each single one of which might readily console a rational
man in his sorrow. To give just one: Consider that there is
no harm that does not bring with it some consolation. If a
man is in great bodily pain but has a house to be ill in, people
to care for him, a doctor to treat him: let him consider poor
people, sick or sicker than he, to whom no one gives as much
as a glass of water.17
He considers also suffering as retribution: All suffering
comes from love and holding dear. Therefore if I love and
hold dear perishable things, God still does not have the love
of my whole heart. A good man should be ashamed before
God and himself when he notices that God is not in him, that
created things are still at work in him. And A good man
should never complain: he should only complain of his own
Eckhart suggests that all suffering lies in ego-love. Rightly
accepted, suffering can rid us of egoism and so help us to grow
in spiritual maturity.
He then turns to a more mystical explanation: Empty
yourself that you may be filled. . . . T o be naked, poor, to
have nothing, transforms nature: emptiness makes water flow
upward. He gives a vivid and characteristic example of the
effect of suffering: When material fire kindles wood, a spark
receives the nature of fire. . . . At once it forgets father and
mother down upon earth, and hastens to the true Father
17Vol. 3, p. 67.
l8Vol. 3, p. 68.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart 211
which is in heaven . . . In a passage too long to quote in full
he writes:
As it has already been said about emptiness or
nakedness, as the soul becomes more bare and
poor and possesses less of created things that are
not God, it receives God more purely and is to
tally in him, and it truly becomes one with God,
and it looks into God and God into it, face to face,
as it were two images transformed into one. . . . We
have a plain example and proof even in the natu
ral order: When fire works and kindles wood and
sets it on fire, the fire diminishes the wood and
makes it unlike itself, taking away its coarseness,
coldness, heaviness and dampness, and turns the
wood into itself, into fire, more and more like to it.
But neither the fire nor the wood is satisfied with
any warmth or heat or likeness until the fire gives
birth to itself in the wood, and gives to the wood
its own nature, and also its own being, so that
they both become one and the same unseparated
fire, neither less nor more. And therefore, before
this. may be achieved there is always smoke, con
tention, crackling, effort and violence between fire
and wood. But when all the unlikeness has been
taken away, then the fire is stilled and the wood
is quiet.19
In this passage the link between suffering and the birth of the
Son of God in the heart of man is clearly made, whether in
relation to the passion of Christ or the sufferings of men.
Eckhart devotes one sermon to this paradox on the text
Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the Kingdom of
Heaven. He dismisses the customary interpretations they
19Vol. 3, P. 116f.
212 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
are all right as far as they go, but not relevant to his theme.
He defines the poor man as the one who wants nothing, knows
nothing, has nothing.20
Of the man who wants nothing he says: For as long as it
is mans will to do the dearest will of God, he is not yet poor.
For this man has still a will, and that is not yet poverty.
Of the man who knows nothing he says: Man must not
even know that God lives in him. He must be as free of knowl
edge as he was before he was. He must be empty of all knowl
edge, knowing neither about God, creation or himself.
The man who has nothing: uthis poverty is thex6xtreme
form of poverty. To paraphrase a lengthy passage: The great
masters say, and Eckhart has himself said it, that man should
be free of exterior and interior possessions, so that God can
be God and act in him. He now says it differently: he asks
God to let him be rid of God. For in his essential being he is
above God, insofar as we understand God as the beginning
of creation. Only with this spiritual poverty man returns to
his true nature which he has ever been and which he will
ever remain. If he succeeds in this return out of the state
of bondage to his I and to creatures and is not caught up
in bondage to his (idea of) God, but breaks through this as
well, into the eternal and one divine consciousness in which
the highest angels, the souls of men and the mosquitoes are
one, then this breakthrough and return is nobler than mans
entrance into creation. For he leaves behind the small, limited
I; here Konrad and Henry die, to be buried in the desert of
the Godhead.
When I flowed out of God, all creation said: God
Is. But this is not my beatitude. But in my re
turn (to God) when I am free of my own will and
the will of God and all his works and of God him
self, then I am above Creation and am neither
20This and the following quotations are from Vol. 3, pp. 269-76.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart 213
God nor creature. I am rather what I was and
what I will be, now and ever. Then I experience a
movement that raises me above all angels. In this
movement I receive such wealth that God and ev
erything to do with God cannot suffice me, nor all
his divine works, for in this movement I discover
that I and God are one. There I am what I was,
there I neither increase nor decrease, but I am the
immovable cause that moves all things. Here God
finds no place in man, for with this poverty man
becomes what he always was and will always re
main. Here God is one with the Spirit and that is
the purest poverty that can be found.
We will end this lecture with the words with which Eckhart
ends his sermon: Whoever does not understand this let him
not be disturbed, for as long as man is not conformed to this
truth, he will not be able to understand. For it is a hidden
truth which comes straight from the heart of God.
Meister Eckhart (ca.1260-1328/29)
Some Notes on his Life and Times
The seventy years spanned by Eckharts life were a time of
transition in Europe, marked by much violence and brutal
ity, by a breakdown of law and order, by the passing away of
old-established norms, by impatience with a fossilized Church
and by the rise of charismatic movements which often began
with reforming zeal but ended as heretical and fanatical sects.
Politically it was marked by a disastrous interregnum lasting
twenty years, when there was no emperor to keep the am
bitions of warring princes under control; it was also marked
214 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
by the first beginnings of nation-states. The papacy was at
a very low ebb: under pressure from France the popes went
into exile at Avignon (1309-77), while a rival pope ruled in
Heresies abounded; cities and whole countries were put
under interdict and denied the sacraments, sometimes for
years. At the same time there was religious zeal and fervour,
particularly among educated women who entered convents
leading to many new foundations being made, and many
claimed mystical experiences. This state is reflected in Eck-
harts sermons, since he was responsible for the spiritual guid
ance of these convents.
Little is known of Eckharts life. He must have entered
the Dominican Order very young; was educated in Paris and
Cologne; he was evidently regarded as a very promising friar
as he was given posts of responsibility when he was still very
young. A further period of study in Paris gained him the
coveted degree of Master of Theology, after which he is al
ways known as Master Eckhart (Meister Eckhart). For all his
responsibilities he found time for writing, mostly in Latin,
though he never completed the major works he had planned.
At this time he also wrote in German The Book of Divine
Comforts, which already contains most of the ideas he is
famous for. After a period in Paris, lecturing and holding
disputations, he was transferred to Strassburg (1314), and
here he began his practice of preaching in German in con
vent chapels and parish churches. Probably these sermons
were never written down by the Master. What we have is
notes written from memory by sisters and others in the con
gregation. The sermons are characterized by bold paradox,
by hyperbole, by speculation based on his deep knowledge
of the Fathers as well as of Greek and Islamic scholars; by
humour and a penetrating knowledge of human nature and
its subterfuges.
Brigitte: Meister Eckhart 215
About 1322 he was transferred to Cologne to occupy
the Chair of Theological Studies, and continued his prac
tice of preaching in German language. Here trouble began;
the Archbishop was a Franciscan (at that time there was en
mity and rivalry between Dominicans and Franciscans). The
Archbishop was bitterly hostile to any kind of mysticism,
which he associated with the enthusiasm of the many semi-
heretical sects. He instigated proceedings against Eckhart for
allegedly spreading heretical ideas. Eckhart defended himself.
The case was transferred to the papal court in Avignon. In
1329 a much shorter list of passages from those submitted by
Cologne was declared erroneous, but before this judgement
was passed Eckhart had died. Eckharts teaching as a whole
was never declared heretical. In any case Eckhart had pub
licly repudiated any of his teachings insofar as they could
generate in the minds of the faithful a heretical opinion (note
the careful wording!) or anything erroneous or hostile to the
true faith. Nevertheless, Eckharts teaching was henceforth
regarded with suspicion. It is therefore surprising that Eck-
hartian societies continued to flourish in North Germany and
the Netherlands, the latest of which I know being in Leyden
in Holland in the 17th Century, where an ecumenical group
studied his teaching, one of whom popularised it in doggerel
verse, which continues to be widely read and quoted.
Meister Eckhart: Deutsche Predigten und Traktate, edited and
translated into modern German by Joseph Quint. Mu
nich 1955. (Referred to as Qu. in notes)
Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises. In Three Volumes.
Translated by M.O.C. Walshe. London: Element Books,
1979, 1981, 1985. (W. in notes)
Meister Eckhart. Translated by Edmund Cooledge. Contains
216 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
some commentaries, seven German Sermons and the
Treatises. New York, Paulist Press (Classics of Western
Sprituality), 1981.
Meister Eckhart by R.B. Blakney. New York: Harper & Row,
1941. Contains 28 sermons.
Matthew Fox: Meditation with Meister Eckhart, Santa Fe:
Bear k Company, 1983. (Extracts from his writing for
devotional use.)
Books about Meister Eckhart
Willigis Jaeger: Kontemplation. Gottesbegegnung heute. Salz
burg: Otto Mller Verlag, 1982. (An English translation
of this practical little book is available: The Way to
Contemplation: Encountering God Today. New York/-
Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1987.
Alois Haas: Meister Eckhart als normative Gestalt geistlichen
Lebens. Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1979.
Heribert Fischer: Meister Eckhart. Freiburg and Munich: Karl
Alber, 1974.
Cyprian Smith: The Way of Paradox. London: Darton, Long
man & Todd, 1987.
Ursula Fleming: Meister Eckhart, The Man From Whom God
Hid Nothing. London: Fount Paperbacks, 1988.
Matthew Fox: Breakthrough: Meister Eckharts Creation Spir
ituality in New Translations. New York: Doubleday Im
age Books, 1980.
The Divine Way in Kashmir Saivism1
B. N. Pandit
The Trika system of the practical yoga of Kashmir Saivism
teaches such a Tantric path of practice which leads directly to
the realization of the innermost aspect of the Self and yields,
at the same time, liberation from age old bondages of igno
rance, while an aspirant is yet living in a physical form. Yoga,
known as sdmbhavopdya, or the Divine means, is the highest
method of Trika-yoga. The stage of yoga known as anupdya
is nothing but the position of the highest perfection in the
practice of sdmbhava and not at all any other practice. As the
name says, it is a means without any means or a path
less path. The essential character of sdmbhava is sufficiently
different from that of the two other methods of Trika-yoga,
known as dnavopdya (the individual means) and sdktopdya
(the means of Energy).
The Characteristic features of the updyas or means of real
ization have been described in the Mdlinxvijaya Tantra. The
following verses describe the individual means ( dnava) and
the means of Energy (sdkta):
yo bhavet sa samdvesah samyag dnava ucyate.
MVT 11.21
The full samdvesa (absorption in the divine) oc
curs by means of uccara (upgoing dynamic vital
E d i t e d by H.N. Chakravarty.
218 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
energy), karana (postures of the body indicative
of certain inward states), dhydna (meditation),
varna (letters of alphabets permeated by the pri
mal sound known as nada), sthdna kalpa (concen
tration on stations of the vital energy, on different
parts of the body and spots outside the body) is
known as dnava.
The same text defines saktopdya in the following way:
uccdrarahitam vastu cetasaiva vicintayan,
yam samdvesamapnoti sdktah s o 7trdbhidhxyate.
When an aspirant with one-pointedness of the
mind apprehends that Reality which is not within
the range of utterance (gross or subtle), he ob
tains absorption (in divine consciousness), then
that samdvesa is known as sdkta. (Tr. J. Singh)
All the varieties of dnavopdya involve some regular practices
in mental contemplation on the nature of different categories
of objective phenomena of mental and material character.
Saktopdya is the name given to practice in subjective con
templation on ones own person and its real character, as
discussed in the philosophy of Saiva monism. A yogin has to
contemplate regularly on his infinite, perfect and divinely po
tent pure I-consciousness, which is not to be confused with
the limited ego. Such practice yields an intellectual realiza
tion of the true nature and character of the real Self, as taught
in Kashmir Saivism. Such realization of the Self is termed as
bauddha-jnana. Regular practice in such jfidna leads automat
ically to the position of sdmbhava when it becomes perfect.
The sdmbhava updya has been described thus:
akimccintakasyaiva gurund pratibodhatah,
jay ate yah samdvesah sambhavosavudiritah.
MVT 11.23
Pandit: The Divine Way
Absorption of the individual consciousness in the
Divine results from an awakening imparted by the
spiritual teacher who has freed his mind from all
ideation, is called sdmbhava. (Tr. J. Singh)
The absorption that occurs by following the course either of
sdkta or dnava, that course indeed leads to sdmbhava, for it
is stated in the Tantrdloka that,
dvavapyetau samdvesau nirvikalpdrnavam prati,
praydta eva tadrudhim vind naiva hi ktmcana.
TA 1.226
Both these absorptions ( dnava and sdkta) pro
ceed toward the sea of undifferentiated knowl
edge. Without being absorbed (in this undifferen
tiated sea of consciousness) nothing indeed exists.
They both get their rest in the absorption of sdmbhava which
is characterised by the Supreme Light of the Divine.
The characteristic feature of the means known as
sdmbhava is non-dual, while sakta is dual-non-dual and dnava
is dual (cp. TA 1.230).
Some present-day teachers and thinkers may raise an ob
jection by saying that such contemplative practice and its
results come into the field of self-hypnotism. But in fact all
of us are already moving within the deep rooted hypnotism
worked out on us by maya, the deluding power of the abso
lute reality, and are therefore taking wrongly the mental and
physical forms as our real Self. Sdktopdya should therefore be
taken as such a process of dehypnotization which relieves a
yogin from the hypnotical finitude of his person and limita
tions in his powers to know and to do in accordance with his
will, imposed on him by maya, the most powerful hypnotizing
force working in the whole universe.
Sdmbhavopdya transcends all practices in mental contem
plation. It is a regular practice in direct realization of the true
220 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
nature and character of ones real Self and by the self, not
aided by any mental apparatus. Anava and sdkta involve a
sufficient amount of mental imagination, but sdmbhava tran
scends the mind and all mental activities. Mental ideation is
the essential character of both anava and sdkta types of yoga,
while sdmbhava is perfectly free from all ideation. It is there
fore known as nirvikalpa-updya. Ideation and contemplation
involve two psychic activities, namely, mental effort in form
ing ideas and the psychic manifestation of such ideas. The el
ement of mental exertion plays a predominant part in anava,
while manifestation becomes dominant in sdkta. Exertion is
action and manifestation is knowledge, as it is a psychic illu
mination. Therefore these two types of Trika-yoga are known
respectively as kriyd-yoga and jndna-yoga. A sdmbhava yogin
pushes both such mental activities to the background and,
with just the use of the power of the Energy of will (icchd-
saktt), he enters into such a transcendental state in which the
Self, consisting of self-aware pure consciousness, freed from
the whole mental apparatus, shines by itself and keeps aware
of itself as the infinite T , vibrating to and fro through its
own divine essence. A regular practice in such yoga results in
a state termed as siva-samdvesa. It is such a state in which
the finite I-consciousness becomes merged into the infinite,
omniscient and omnipotent I-consciousness and the practi
tioner feels actually that he is not separate from Almighty
God himself. A regular practice in such samdvesa results in
the development of many divine capacities and such a yogin
can excercise his divine grace on a being and such being gets
liberation from his ignorance and all the resultant miseries.
Sdmbhavopdya, being conducted through the exercise of such
power of will, is known as iccha-yoga.
evam parecchdsaktyamsasadupayamimam viduh,
sdmbhavdkhyam samdvesam sumatyantenivd-
sinah. TA 1.213
Pandit: The Divine Way 221
This true means is known by the disciples of
revered Sumati and others is a portion of the
supreme Energy of Will and it is called the
sdmbhava absorption (samdvesa).
ambhava-yoga is of several varieties. The main element in
all its varieties is the intuitive revelation of the real char
acter of the Self. The Self realizes itself through the bril
liant para-psychological lustre of its pure consciousness, with
out the least use of the whole mental apparatus. Two of
the main varieties of sdmbhava have been discussed in de
tail by Abhinavagupta, respectively in his Tantrdloka and
his Vivarana commentary on Pardtrxsikd? Such varieties of
sdmbhava are termed as mdtrkd and mdlinx. Both such prac
tices in sdmbhava-yoga are highly mystical in character and
can be grasped correctly only through practice in Trika yoga
and not through mere studies and discussions. Yet these have
been described in such works of eminently high standard ever
written on the advanced stages in mystic yoga.
The whole phenomenon is, in the philosophical view of
Kashmirs monistic 3aivism, a manifestation of the outward
reflections of the divine powers of Almighty God. He, while
appearing in the form of the phenomenal existence, does
not undergo any change or transformation, as maintained by
Vaisnavas in India and pantheists in the West. God is always
the pure and absolute consciousness and does not undergo
any change in his nature. He possesses wonderful divine pow
ers. Being infinitely blissful in his nature, he is ever playful.
On account of his divine playfulness, he plays the infinite
game of cosmic creation, dissolution etc.3 This is being done
2Wrongly called Paratrim&ikS. Cp. Abhinavagupta, ParcitrtJika-
Vivarana. The Secret of Tantric Mysticism. Trans, by Jaideva Singh,
Sanskrit text ed. by Swami Lakshraan jee, ed. by Bettina Bauraer, Delhi
(Motilal Banarsidass), 1988.
3Cp. Bet t i na Baumer, The Play of t he Three Worlds: The Trika
222 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
by him through outwardly reflecting his divine powers. All
the phenomenal elements, called tattvas, are thus just the re
flections of different divine powers of God. That is the truth
about the phenomena, as maintained in Kashmir aivism. A
Siva-yogin has to transcend the whole physical and mental
existence by uniting with the Divine will. He has to find out
actually, through the power of his intuition, that he is none
other than Almighty God. The whole phenomenal existence,
consisting of all the created tattvas, is to be seen as shining
within the lustre of his own consciousness as a multitude of
the reflections of his own divine powers.
The following verses of Tantrdloka of Sri Abhinavagupta
explain briefly sdmbhava samavesa:
samviddtmani visvoyam bhdvavargah prapanca-
vdn, pratibimbatayd bhdti yasya visvesvaro hi sah.
TA 111.26*8
He indeed is the Lord of the universe in whose
consciousness this entire multitude of beings ap
pears in infinite ways like reflections in a mirror.
The text further adds:
evamatmani yasyedrgavikalpah sadodayah,
paramarsah sa evdsau sdmbhavopdya mudritah.
TA III.269
Those who are marked by the Divine way par
take of a reflective awareness which arises once
without setting in a non-differentiated conscious
ness ( avikalpa) of the Self.
Abhinavagupta discusses sdmbhava updya in his Tantrd-
loka (3rd dhnika) in the following way. The Divine Lord being
Concept of /f/d , in: The Gods at Play: LtlS in South Asi a, ed. by William
Sax, New York (Oxford University Press), 1994.
Pandit: The Divine Way 223
transcendent ( upddhyatita) is beyond the reach of accidental
attributes ( upadhis), yet He shines in His innate glory where
no upadhi has yet become manifest, and the other is going
to merge in the sea of tranquillity (prasamayogatah). This
prasama occurs in two distinct ways according to the com
parative competence of the yogin. This competence is nothing
but the keenness of the fall of grace ( saktipdta) by which the
aspirant is touched. For the one who has been blessed by the
graceful Lord, that is, by an intense impact of 3akti obtains
immediate liberation. It is stated in the Tantrdloka (III.259
ff.) that the former teachers used to stress the point that the
transcendent nature of the Divine on the one hand is beyond
upadhi, that is, accidental attribute, but on the other even
the aspirant who has received grace of the Lord in a lesser
degree realizes the Lord. The Lord shines as if nothing has
emerged yet (pragabhdva-rupa). The second is that negation
which has been made existent by means of destruction or
withdrawal. To clarify the above viewpoints it is stated that
the autonomous Lord by His free will before manifesting the
universe, when he becomes intent on creation and when all
the attributes are as if about to flourish ( anulldsdt) actually
they have not yet flourished. This is known to be a state of
prdgabhava. Therefore the Lords graceful nature is realized
by the competent aspirant in two different ways. The one is
by means of sdnti, the way of tranquillity. His tasting of the
sweetness of the Lord is preceded by the procedure of paying
obeisance to the revered teacher and following the course of
convention ( samaya) and so on. This is termed as madhu-
rapdka, cooking with sweetness, while the other is known
as hathapdka, cooked instantaneously. The aspirant real
izes the Self as Consciousness shining like a blazing fire into
which everything has already been consumed by the fire of
Consciousness. The aspirant feels within that there is noth
ing more to be relished. He feels fully satisfied. Only the non
224 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ending light remains ever ablaze without any break (cp. TA
sarvo mamdyam vibhava ityevam parijdnatah,
visvdtmano vikalpdndm prasarepi mahesatd.
IPK Tattvasamgrahadhikara IV.1.12
He who knows that all this glory of manifestation
is mine (i.e. belongs to the Spirit), who realizes
that the entire cosmos is his Self, possesses Lord
ship even when the vikalpas (thought-constructs)
have their play.
The method of a still superior variety of sdmbhavofdya is, at
the outset, quite simple in its character and can be easily un
derstood and practised. Such variety of sdmbhava is assisted,
at the initial stage of practice, by sambhavt mudrd, a spe
cial type of psycho-physical posture. A yogin has just to sit
firm in padmasana posture and has to keep his body quite
erect. His eyes are to be kept half open, with his sight falling
loosely towards the tip of his nose. His hands are to be kept,
right over the left, in his lap, with palms turned upwards.
He should then stop slowly and steadily all his mental activi
ties, without using any force. It happens by regular practice.
Constant chains of successive ideation are to be brought to
a stop. The mental apparatus is to be made so inactive and
motionless that even the sound or movement of breathing is
not noticed by the yogin. His mind has to give up its ten
dency towards moving outwards to catch hold of objects of
thinking. It has to turn inwards and to come face to face with
the inner I-consciousness (not the ego), shining through its
natural divine lustre. At such juncture it shall be automati
cally lost in such highly brilliant lustre. The self of the yogin
shall then see its own self through its own lustre and shall
become directly aware of itself and its divine character. The
yogin concerned shall actually realize that he is none other
Pandit: The Divine Way
than pure and infinite Consciousness endowed with all divine
powers of Godhead. That is pratyabhijnd, the recognition of
the real aspect of the Self. That is the simplest means of the
direct self-realization and the highest type of sdmbhavopdya
as explained to the writer of this paper by his precepter,
crya Amrtavgbhava who had learnt it through the gra
cious kindness of sage Durvsas.
Some ancient traces of the practice of such yoga can be
found in the remains of Indus Valley Civilization. Its most an
cient written description is found in detail in the sixth chapter
of Bhagavad-Gttd.
Kalidasa describes both the physical and mental aspects
of such mudrd in a charming poetic style in his Kumdrasam-
bhava (KS 111.45-50). It is the spontaneous posture of Um
in the moment of recognising Siva:
tam mksya vepathumati sarasdngayastir
niksepandya padamuddhrtamudvahanti,
mdrgdcalavyatikardkuliteva sindhuh
sailddhirdjatanayd na yayau na tasthau.
KS V.85
On seeing him, the daughter of the Mountain-
lord, all atrembling and her body covered with
perspiration, and having one foot raised to walk
away, was uncertain whether to go or to stay, like
a river hampered by the impediment of a moun
tain in the path. (Tr. M.R. Kale)
The mention of sdmbhava is found in Avadhta-Gtd. Its elu
sive description is found in some sayings ( Vacanas) of some
Vlrasaiva saints, and in poems of the Hindi poet-mystic,
Kabradsa. This type of sdmbhava-yoga has been described
briefly but clearly by crya Amrtavgbhava in his Siddha-
mah-rahasya (VI.21-23). In spite of all such clear descrip
tions of this superior type of sdmbhava-yoga, some aspects of
226 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
its practice remain still unexplained and can be learnt only
through the help of a master who has attained considerable
success in its practice.
Practice in sambhava-yoga is frequently liable to two main
types of lapses. Firstly, the practitioner may very easily enter
into some delightful step in dreamless sleep, and finding it
sufficiently sweet, may stick to it and may not at all aspire to
reach the state of turya, that is, the state of intuitive revela
tion of the true character of the Self. Such sleeping state may
provide with perfect rest, relaxation and tranquillity, but can
not lead to a true realization of the Self. It can, at the most,
eradicate mental tension and remove physical fatigue and can
charge energy to work.
Another probable lapse is the fact that a yogin, having
still some desires and passions in his mind, may fall prey to
misuse of some uncommon powers that do develop during the
practice of sambhava-yoga. For instance, a yogin may develop
telepathy or may attain capacity to know the past and future
of people around him. Such a practitioner may, very often,
become tempted to use his yogic capacities to earn respect,
influence, name, fame, material prosperity, etc. Such misuse
of yogic powers checks the spiritual progress of the yogin con
cerned and his unusual psychic capacities do also vanish after
some time. Such things happen frequently to tlogins. Their
present life becomes useless and they have to mark time for
the whole remaining portion of their life. Some of them re
pent very much on such account and some become mad on
account of such intense repentence. Such half-mad monks can
be found in India at many places. But a few among practi
tioners are very clever in such matters. They indulge in the
misuse of yogic powers only to such an extent that does not
deprive them of the whole mastery over such powers and con
tinue to have influence on unwise common people. Some of
Pandit: The Divine Way 227
such yogins do also exist at present in India, though they may
be very few in number.
Sdmbhava-yoga of all the three paths mentioned above
does actually develop supernatural psychic capacities in a yo-
gin. But a sdmbhava yogin, having been initiated by a highly
powerful preceptor, is saved of such lapses, through his gra
cious activity. Some powerful mantra (a mystic verbal for
mula), if practised regularly and correctly, can also save its
practitioner from such lapses. The other and the most ef
fective defence against such lapses is the intense devotion
towards Lord Siva. Such a devotee does neither stick to the
sweet tranquillity of susupti, nor indulges in any misuse of yo-
gic powers. He also develops super-human psychic capacities
which help him in becoming perfectly sure about the authen
ticity of his yogic realization of being truly identical with
Almighty God. Some signs of partial success do also appear
occasionally in him while he is in the process of regular prac
tice in such yoga, conducted with the help of sdmbham mudra.
Sometimes his physical form becomes lighter in weight than
the atmosphere in his room and, as a result of such occasional
development, his body starts an upward movement towards
the ceiling of the room, with no change in the sitting pos
ture of his form. At other times a sweet radiance, like that of
the crescent moon, emanates out of his forehead. Sometimes
a highly wonderful happening occurs when the subtle body
of a yogin comes out of his gross body, leaving it lifeless for
a while and re-entering it after moving about in the room.
Deities, residing at various sacred places appear before such
practical yogin when he roams about at such places. Most
of such super-human experiences do occur just to divert a
yogin from the path of self-realization. But sometimes some
super-human beings appear before him just to help him in
his upward spiritual ascent. All such things are controlled by
the binding and liberating forces of Lord 3iva. The divine
228 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
activities of the Lord are of multifarious character and con
sequently his play in spiritual ascent and descent does also
appear in multifarious ways. That makes his divine cosmic
play highly wonderful and interesting. It is the wonderful va
riety of the characters of a drama that makes it enjoyable
to the public. How would Lord Siva, the sole master of the
universal drama, ignore this infinite play with respect to such
individual variety?
Several other types of practice in sdmbhavopdya have been
taught in some ancient important texts, but have not been
elucidated by any authors of works on Saivism. The key tech
nique expressed in them is the same practice of remaining
vigilant towards the pure brilliant and self-aware conscious
ness of the Self and not moving towards any ideation of any
4 Some of such practices have been expressed in the works listed below.
(1) Si vas t l t ra I, S ut r as 5 and 6, ch. IV Sat - 7, ch. III. Sut . 20, 20, 27,
28, and 30.
(2) Vi j nduabhai r av a, verse Nos. 49, 61, 75, 91, 101, 103, 108, 126 and
(3) S pandak ar i k a, verse Nos. 6, 7, 11, 22. 41 and 43.
(4) Si vadr s t i , Ch. VIII. Couplets. 17, 18.
(5) I svarapr at yabhi j nd, IV. 16
(6) Abhinavaguptas AnuttarastikQ, 2 and Anubhavanivedanastotraj
2, etc.
In the Theological Tradition of the Christian East
Serge Descy
Bearer of all names,
how shall I name you?
You alone the Unnameable!
St. Gregory Nazianzus
Hymn to God, PG 37, 507
The following talk will attempt to present in a synthetic man
ner two aspects constitutive of the theological tradition of the
Christian East in this case Byzantine which are closely
linked : theological apophatism and the personal communi
cation of God through his uncreated energies.
Why choose precisely these two aspects? Because, central
within their own traditions, they allow one to establish com
mon points or even direct parallelisms, in the comparative
theology of religions, with other systems, and, notably, the
Advaita-Vedanta and aivism.
No doubt this is because the Christian East has never
made a clear distinction between mysticism and theology. The
two dimensions are complementary and are indispensable to
one another: there is no mysticism without theology for it
is the symbolic expression which supports the human spirit
in contemplation of the divine mystery and prevents possible
aberrations. In fact, outside of a theological speech able to
circumscribe truth as received and interpreted by the com
munity of faith in its entirety here, the church personal
230 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
experience would be completely deprived of all objectivity.
But inversely, and above all, there is no theology without
mysticism. Because a religion without mysticism would be
nothing but pure ideology.
In short, theological dogma represents a limited and tran
sitory knowledge which must lead beyond all knowledge to
union with God. Practical in scope, it arises from history
and is summoned to disappear in pure contemplative vision.
If you are a theologian, you have pure prayer, if you have
pure prayer, you are a theologian in the words of Evagrius
Ponticus1. And it is in this same sense that the Cappadocian
Fathers never ceased saying that there is no otheY way to
know God than to live in Him.
Hence a purely mystical author, St. Simeon, is called the
New Theologian and two other mystical writers, St. John the
Evangelist and St. Gregory of Nazianzus are both given the
title of theologian by the Eastern tradition. In fact, mys
ticism is considered to be the summit or perfection of all
If mysticism and theology are closely linked in Eastern
Christianity, it is obvious that the theological explanation
of the experience of the ineffable this being supposed to
be an invariant in human history can be most fruitfully
compared with other theologico-mystical systems, such as the
properly mystical philosophies of India. The latter might thus
be capable of offering a wider epistemological framework for
the interpretation of the Christian mystical experience. More
over, the complementarity runs in both directions. But, it is
certain and this is what we would like to illustrate that
the mystical theology of the Christian East occupies a priv
ileged, but not exclusive, position in this comparative task
with which the faith is today confronted, faced with an irre
ducible religious pluralism.
1De orat., 60 (PG 79, 1180 B).
Descy: Christian East 231
Another, no less important reason justifying the choice
of this two-fold dimension of unknowing and personalism for
our global approach to the mystical theology of the Christian
East resides in the modernity of this dual intuition: in fact, in
an altogether pertinent way it responds to the challenge posed
to theology by contemporary philosophy and the human sci
ences. One can already cite here nihilism and the death
of God current, the Heideggerian critique of onto-theology
or the end of metaphysics, demythologization, hermeneutics
and its definitive impact in theology, the problem of mean
ing, such as it is raised within the structural approach, the
challenge of postmodern theology accompanied by the ques
tion on the irreducible meaning gap, and finally, analytical
philosophies. We shall return to this briefly. The importance
of this debate in contemporary society is evident. It is a ques
tion of the intelligibility of knowledge, which always necessar
ily expresses itself on the basis of the philosophical and socio
cultural categories of a given place and thus, one will always
run up against an insurmountable limit linked to the very
condition of language, that has to express through language
what expresses itself in language.
The Meaning of Apophasis2
The theological unknowing which characterizes Eastern
Christianity is usually designated by the word apophatism,
from the Greek apophasis which signifies the negation of
speech. Actually, this term refers to a mode of thought, an
intention, an approach of the spirit, rather than to a theo
logical current in the strict sense. We note that this question
2A general introduction to this subject is to be found in V. Lossky,
The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, (trans. from the French),
London, 1957; C. Yannaras, De l absence et de l inconnaissance de Dieu,
(trans. from the Greek), Paris, 1971; C. Guerard, La thologie ngative
dans l apophatisme grec, in Rev. des Sc. phil. et thol., 68 (1984), pp.ISS-
232 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
about the value of human language in the naming of the Di
vine, which in the last analysis recognizes that the supreme
form of knowledge is to know that one doesnt know, is re
discovered in many religions or wisdoms. In Greek thought,
the apophatic approach, already germinally present in Plato,
is systematized in the Platonic tradition and further radi
calized by the neo-Platonists. Inasmuch as it is the heir of
Platonism,3 Christian theology is in its turn impregnated
with the same approach, above all from the fourth century on.
It is helpful to note briefly the significant stages of Christian
apophasis, given the diversity of types that it includes.
As to the Platonic heritage and the period after the fourth
century AD, it is preferable to speak of the aphairetical
method [from the Greek aphairesis, the act of taking away,
abstraction] to designate negative theology insofar as it is
an intellectual operation of abstraction.4 In the tradition of
the ancient Academy of Plato and for Aristotle, abstraction
is a true mode of knowledge which consists in cutting away
or in denying additions in order to climb towards the incor
poreal and simple. One thus ascends from the complex to
simple realities by cutting away what is not essential. This
is why this aphairetical method was able to be considered
as a negative method. But the negations are here, in fact,
affirmations because they are negations of negations, given
that from the Platonic perspective, any addition to a simple
reality, or rather any determination, is negation or a degra
dation in relation to a plenitude of being. This aphairetical
method presupposes the idea of an infinitude of being and
permits surmounting the a priori impossibility of thinking it
by a rational exercise of thought. In this sense, the tradi
tional concept of negative theology, taken up and amplified
3Cp. E. von Ivanka, Plato christianus, Einsiedeln, 1964.
4P. Hadot, art. Theologie ngative, in Encycl. Univ., t.17, Paris, 1985,
pp. 1115 sq.
Descy: Christian East
in Christian theology, is less pertinent inasmuch as it would
apply to God propositions which deny any conceivable pred
icate. In so doing, it would logically deny the very divinity
of its object and would thus contradict even its proper ap
pellation of theology or discourse on God. The aphairetic
method issuing from Plato and the Platonic tradition ought
not be understood as the recognition of an unknowable abso
lute. This approach, aiming rather at an intellectual intuition
of the Unknowable, was assimilated by the Christian authors
of the first centuries.
Yet, from Platinus onwards and for the neo-Platonists, the
aphairetic method no longer permits thinking the transcen
dent principle, nor having an intuition of it, because it is not
an object and thus does not belong to the order of thought.
The notion of aphairests loses its meaning and is progres
sively replaced by that of apophasis. From the impossibility
of thinking the transcendent one passes to the impossibility
of speaking or telling about it: one can say nothing about this
subject, but can only have a mystical experience and describe
the state of our subjectivity.
It should be recognized that Christian theologians intro
duced the method and terminology of neo-Platonic apopha-
tism intQ^their own theology, thereby fitting themselves into
what Paul Ricoeur calls the croyable disponible [available
believable] of an epoch. But it must be acknowledged that
this negative Christian theology although essentially dif
ferent from Platonic theology as to its basis was to have
an enormous influence as much in the East, especially from
the fourth century onwards, as in the Latin Middle Ages.
The anonymous, Middle Eastern author of the end of the
fifth century hiding behind the pseudonym of Dionysius the
Areopagite5 was not the inventor of the theoretical question
5Cp. V. Lossky, La thologie ngative dans la doctrine de Denys
1*Areopagite , in Rev. des Sc. phil. et theol., 28 (1939), pp. 204-21; M.
234 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
as to the distance between God and language, even though
negative theology remains associated with his name. He is in
fact preceded by a long tradition: the Desert Fathers, Eva-
grius, the Cappadocians, in particular, St. Gregory of Nyssa,
and finally St. John Chrysostom. Nonetheless, throughout
his writings, Dionysius poses the problem of knowledge of
God in a radical manner. He distinguishes two possible ways
in theology: one, imperfect, because it proceeds by affirma
tions [or positive theology], the other, perfect, proceeding by
negations [negative or apophatic theology] which is the only
one which is really suitable for the consideration of God. It
is clear that there is an antinomy between the two ways, of
which Dionysius will not perforce attempt to make a synthe
sis. On the contrary, the apophatic way is in his view the only
way towards mystical union with God inasmuch as he remains
absolutely unknowable for us. This way of ascending is com
pared to Moses climbing Mount Sinai, when he freed himself
from the grasp of all that is knowable, to penetrate into the
mystical darkness of unknowing. Yet, God will always remain
known at once by the mode of knowing and by the mode of
unknowing, God remaining supereminent for both of them.
The expressible and the inexpressible intermingle. Dionysius
was to express the absolute unknowability and transcendence
of God by attributes composed using alpha privatum or fur
ther, following the symmetrical attitude of unknowing due
to deficiency, by using terms constructed with hyper, as for
example, hypertheos, signifying God beyond God.
To illustrate this, one could cite any number of passages
from his various treatises. We shall refer to this very short
God offers Himself to intelligence, to reason, to
science . . . and yet neither intelligence, nor rea-
Corbin, Ngation et transcendance dans loeuvre de Denys, in Rev.
des Sc. phil. et theol., 69 (1985), pp. 41-76.
Descy: Christian East 235
son, nor any name can grasp Him. He is nothing
like what is, and one cannot know Him in that
which is. He is all in all. And He is nothing in
nothing. He is knowing by all in all. And He is
known by nothing in nothing.. . 6
In his Commentaries on the Divine Names, Maximus the
Confessor, following Dionysius, writes:
God is called being and non-being. For He is noth
ing of what beings are. But He is raised in an un
known manner above all. God is nothing of what
is known.7
Certainly, the Dionysian schema of negative theology estab
lishes the supremacy of natural mysticism which is the
common good of all the great religions over revealed theol
ogy. Yet, one must not conclude too quickly to the supratrini-
tarian bearing of this apophasis. As has been seen, Dionysius
uses philosophical methods and categories like the Fathers
of the Church. But he in no way becomes subject to them.
Apophasis is not a preamble to Christian revelation, but is
thought at the very interior of this Revelation. God is not
the One, nor the Unity, in the sense of the Platonic tradition.
God is iiTfact neither the one nor the multiple, indicating by
this antinomy the ultimate bearing of the trinitarian mystery.
We shall return to this.
Theological apophatism in the Christian East thus ap
pears as a fundamental surpassing of the methodology of
philosophical knowledge. In fact, for the whole Patristic tradi
tion conceptual and dialectical reflection becomes incapable
of thinking the infinite. True theological knowledge cannot
be exhausted in analogical and causal definitions, nor in the
6De divin, nom., 7 { PG 3, 872 A and B).
7PG 4, 189 A.
236 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
simultaneous synthesis of affirmations and negations but, at
the same time, it contains them all and surpasses them. In
other words, it does not suspend philosophical methodology
but is aware that only renunciation of the logic of the created
can prevent making a philosophical idol of God in the image
of man.
Nietzschean nihilism and its hallowed formula God is
dead!8 receives a revealing illumination based upon the sta
tus of theological speech in apophosis. The God rejected by
Nietzsche9 is undeniably a moral God, an old Kantian in
heritance. In subjugating men, Christianity has thus lost the
really divine sense of the world, the sense of the infinite, be
yond good and evil.
This preoccupation ^appears in Heideggers thought,
which has exercised a considerable influence on 20th century
philosophical research.10 Still, this thought is not a disguised
theology, but reminds theology of its status as hermeneutics
of faith. Affirming that the Being question has been forgot
ten by the tradition, it puts an end to this same metaphys
ical movement which had made of God the supreme being
whom man could master in representing it. The Heidegge-
rian critique of onto-theology aims at deconstructing a repre
s e n t a t i o n a l thought, meaning a thought of duality which
ends up by doing away with all the biblical attributes of
God. Yet the whole history of Christian theology is insep
arable from the history of conceptions of being and of the
8Die frhliche Wissenschaft (1982).
9See J. Granier, La critique nietzschenne du Dieu de la
mtaphysique, in J. Colette et al., Procs de Vobjectivit de Dieu. Les
prsupposs philosophiques de la crise de Vobjectivit de Dieu, (Coll.
Cogitatio Fideit 41), Paris, 1969, pp. 65-86.
10Cp. G. Vattimo, Jntroduzione a Heideggei Bari-Roma, 1971; about
the Heideggerian critique of onto-theology, see C. Geffre, Un nouvel ge
de la thologoe, (coll. Cogitatio Fidei, 68), Paris, 1972, pp. 71-75; Hei
degger et la question de Dieut Paris, 1980; P. Corset, Heidegger et la
question de Dieu, in Rev. de VInst. cath. de Pari s, 1982, 1, pp. 57-76.
Descy: Christian East 237
logos of human reason. Before the metaphysical God, man
can no longer dance. Like theological apophasis, Heidegger
denies any ascent to the cause, passing from the Being ques
tion to the question of the being in itself, to the causa sui, and
recognizes mans powerlessness for knowing God in the field
of metaphysics. Through his nihilism, Heidegger advances a
more divine conception of God, but to attain this truly divine
God, man must greet the mystery of being which dwells in
The nihilism of apophatic demythologization has its echo
in Bultmannian hermeneutics as well: let us recall that the
mode of representation in which what is not of the world, the
divine, appears as being of the world is mythical, for example
when the transcendence of God is thought as spatial remote
ness. Yet, knowledge of God is only possible if we renounce
the mythical language of symbols, received ideas and cate
gories. Demythologization wishes to bring the myth back to
its original intention.11
Finally, in Wittgensteins Tractatus logico-philosophicus
we rediscover a radical apophatism: language has a meaning,
the world has a meaning, and yet this meaning is to be found
outside of language and outside of the world. We cannot get
out of language in order to express the fact that language ex
presses something. Thus language cannot express what makes
it language, and consequently, of this about which one can-
not speakt one must be silen?' (7).
Thus, here we measure both the modernity and univer
sality of the apophatic attitude before truth.12 The logical
God is refused. Henceforth, a circle of silence must be drawn
around the divine abyss. The speech of the Christian East is
n Cp. A. Malet, Myt hos et Logos. La pense de Rudolf Bult mann,
Genve,1962, (Engl, trans., Dublin, 1969).
12See also E. Levinas, Aut rement qutre ou au-del de l essence, La
Haye, 1974; J.-L. Marion, L idole et la distance, Paris, 1977; ID., Dieu
sans V Etre, Paris, 1982.
238 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
not that of the rational ontology of the West, but a speech
at the extremity of silence.
Theological Personalism13
Although God may be totally inaccessible and unknow
able according to his Essence, he is not, for all that, imper
sonal. In fact, the divine energies manifest the divinitys mode
of existence, which is personal. And this personal character
of God is, indeed, the foundation of apophatism. God reveals
Himself in his divine energies and through them offers the
possibility of a participation in all of divinity. It is precisely
this participation that is the sole way to knowledge of God.
Greek personalism is traditionally opposed to Latin es-
sentialism. It is true that this contrast which, for some,
is considered to be at the basis of the schism between the
Christian East and West has essential repercussions on
the way the mystery of the communion between God and
man has been felt and expressed on both sides. Conceptions
of the beatific vision and of mysticism, taken globally, are
quite divergent here.
Theological personalism affirms that it is the Person of the
Father that assures the common possession of the same sub
stance by the Son and the Spirit. Thus their consubstantiality
does not consist in their participation in an impersonal princi
ple, but in their personal existence, received from the Father.
May we underline from the outset that one must totally re
nounce the sociological or even the philosophical meaning of
13We refer the reader to some studies on the question: V. Lossky, La
notion theologique de la personne humaine, in A Vimage et a la ressem-
blance de Dieu, Paris, 1967, pp.109-21, (Engl, trans., New York, 1974);
A. de Halleux, Hypostase et personne dans la formation du dogme
trinitaire (ca 375-81) , in Rev. Hi st . ecc/., 79 (1984), pp. 313-69; ID.,
Personnalisme ou essentialisme trinitaire chez les Peres cappadociens?
Une mauvaise controverse, in Rev. t hi ol . Louvain, 17 (1986), pp. 129-55
and 265-92.
Descy: Christian East
the concept of person [in Greek, hypostasis] such as it is pre
sented in trinitarian theology. Whereas in mundane reality,
human beings tend to exist through the affirmation of self
and mutual exclusion, in the theological sense the person is
only fully a person to the extent that he/she is dispossessed
of him/herself, and is totally turned towards the other.
In the trinitarian mystery which is the conceptual rep
resentation of this two-fold dimension of the divine aseity and
of the procession of the divine towards the outside there is
no division of the one nature among the three Persons, each
one including in himself the whole, the entire nature, for each
one has nothing for himself. What we habitually call a human
person ought rather to be understood as an individual. At
the beginning of St. Johns Prologue, the theological sense of
person is given: the Logos is towards God [ho logos en pros
ton Theon]. Sometimes this has been translated: the Logos is
with God. But pros, in Greek, indicates a movement, an
orientation: the Logos is turned towards God. The concepts
of Father, Son and Spirit which will be developed in later the
ology are but signs or symbols to guard against any anthro
pomorphic temptation. Here the Father is the fundament,
the origin, the principle, totally inaccessible and unknowable
according to his essence; the Son is in an intimate relation
with this infinite origin; this intimate relation is pneumatic,
spiritual the Spirit or Pnetima means breath , it is
a face-to-face relation. But this God above everything and
separated from everything, descends towards everything.
Theological personalism cannot be separated from the In
carnation. The divine descent expresses itself in the theandric
nature [theos, God; aner/andros} man] of Christ: in Him, it is
the face of the living and personal God that is contemplated,
it is the infinite compassion of God which re-establishes the
possibility of man knowing God as a personal God, as an ef
fusion of love for each human being. And it is as the image of
240 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
God [according to Genesis 1, 27], that man too is a personal
being according to the same mode by which God exists as
Being. Otherwise put, human nature can enter into a rela
tionship with God identical to that which Christ maintains
with the Father. The hypostatic union of the two natures,
divine and human, in Christ, such as it was defined by
the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century is verified
in every human being. Thus the Christian message can be
summed up in this simple but fulgurating truth, which is the
theandric or Christie nature of man. Christology is thus the
good news announced to man that is the great antinomy of
the Inaccessible who, through love, makes himself participat-
As, for that matter, the Fathers and theologians of the
Eastern Church have never ceased repeating: God became
man in order that man might become go d\ This formula is
to be found for the first time in St. Irenaeus,14 but comes
up again in St. Athanasius,15 St. Gregory of Nazianzus,16 St.
Gregory of Nyssa,17 etc. Moreover, only this descent [in Greek
katabasis] or this kenosis [from the Greek kenosis1 annihila
tion, abasement] of the Divine can convince man of Gods
mad love for him. If he accepts and welcomes this divine
appeal, he becomes a participant in the divine nature ac
cording to St. Peters expression.18 Not only does man cease
to be authentically and fully human outside of God, but the
unique goal of his existence is this participation in God or
deification [in Greek theosis].
The doctrine of the deification of man or its corollary,
the participation or personal communion of man in God ,
is at the heart of the theology and the mysticism of the Chris
Adv. Haer., 5, praef.(PO 7, 1120).
15/ Contr. Arian. , 54{ PG 25,192 B).
16Poem, dogm.j 10, 5-9 { PG 37, 465).
17 Or. cat . mag. , 25 { PG 45, 65 D).
182 Pt 1 , 4 .
Descy: Christian East
tian East.19 It has been abundantly developed in the Patris
tic tradition, and particularly by St. Maximus the Confessor,
who can be considered to be the real father of Byzantine
We shall cite this short passage:
God created us that we might become partici
pants in the divine nature, that we might enter
into eternity, that we might appear similar to him,
being deified by the grace that produces all beings
existent and makes exist everything which did not
This doctrine of deification which he makes the heart and aim
of Christian spiritual life, was to be taken up much later in
the synthesis of St. Gregory Palamas. It is important to evoke
briefly the essential points of this palamite synthesis because
it affords one of the most elaborated and most representative
dogmatic foundations of mystical experience.21
In fact, Palamas is situated at the junction of numer
ous spiritual currents; notably the Hesychastic tradition with
its apophatic critique of the naming of God, and the Jesus
prayer which is the invocation of the name of Jesus. It deep
ens the Patristic distinction between theology and econ
omy [oikonomia, in Greek], that is between God in Himself,
beyond all affirmation and all negation, and the historical
revelation of God.
But above all, Palamas was to emphasize the distinction
12Cp. M. Lot-Borodine, La dification de Vhomme selon la doctrine
des Pres grecs, (Coll. Bibliothque oecumnique, 9), Paris, 1969.
20Epist. 43, Ad Joannem cubicul arium ( PG 91, 640 B. C).
21See J. Meyendorff, A Study of Gregory Pal amas, (trans. from the
French), Crestwood, 1974; A. de Halleux, Palamisme et Scolastique,
in Rev. Thol. Louvain, 4 (1973), pp. 409-22; ID., Palamisme et tradi
tion, in Irnikon,AB (1975), pp. 479-93; G. Mantzaridis, The Deification
of Man. St Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition, Crestwood,
242 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
between the inaccessible essence of God and the divine ener
gies, uncreated and participatable. All of Palamas theological
work had as its goal resolving the antinomy of the knowable
and the unknowable in God and; in so doing, he in fact sur
mounted neo-Platonism in his explanation of the relation of
the infinite to the finite. Palamas wished to safeguard the
essentialist metaphysics inherited from the Pseudo-Dionysius
and, at the same time, to rediscover the existential person
alism and immediate vision of God in the Scriptures and in
the Fathers. But, the antinomy between positive and nega
tive theologies has, precisely, a real foundation on the level of
a distinction within the very being of God, between essence
and energies. Apophasis transforms itself into antinomy and
thereby man can realize deification. Besides, in distinguishing
these energies of the divine essence, one averts any hint of an
impersonal absorption or of pantheism.
Let us take up the Palamite antinomy again. Beings are
the result of the divine will, but not of the essence. They do
not proceed from the divine nature nor from anything which
might be outside of it. They are linked to energies. In God
these are constituted as the uncreated source of his action
ad extra, understood as his face looking on the world. These
divine energies ought not be confused with the essence nor
with the hypostases or the divine persons, nor with created
beings. Rather these eternal and uncreated energies in some
way confer a personal character upon the divine essence. Thus
they are in relation to God for us what the hypostases
are in relation to God in himself. Finally, they reveal two
modes of the divine existence, within the essence and outside
of the essence. If, then, the trinitarian God is incommunicable
according to his essence, he at the same time comes to dwell
in us according to the words of Christ told by St. John : We
shall make our dwelling in him?' ? 2
22Jn 14, 23.
Descy: Christian East 243
The rapprochement is striking between the concept of de
ification in the Christian Eastern Tradition and that of real
ization in the supreme identity of the Atman and of the Brah
man according to the Advaita-Vedanta. We cannot study it
here. We shall simply point out that deification by the uncre
ated energies makes man a full participant in the divine life,
beyond all duality. This Advaitic experience rests upon a re
lationship personal from the outset through integration with
Christ. In the same way, the Brahman with attributes is the
visage of the Absolute and allows us to know the Absolute,
because he is also the Brahman beyond any attributes. He
who is Sakti is also Brahman.23
Let us recapitulate. Christian theology, especially in the
East, thus in some way distinguishes four levels or four mo
ments in reflection and in enunciation :
Firstly, the level of the deity, of the absolute divine
essence, isolated in his aseity. This is totally unknowable.
One can affirm nothing, unless it be unity. Thus one can only
speak in terms of apophatic theology.
The second level is that of the deity inasmuch as it enters
into an internal rapport: this is the eternal procession of the
divine Persons of the Trinity. The Persons flow ceaselessly
from the divine essence and eternally flow back into it. This
procession of the Trinity ad intra also remains fundamentally
unknowabfe. The only references that we have are only an
extrapolation from what we have been able to know of God
in his economy [in the Greek sense, oikonomia], meaning in
creation and in Salvation History, in which He reveals Him
The third level is precisely that of the external relation
of the Trinity with the creation, and particularly the cosmic
23 Note of the Editor: This statement is more true regarding the Ad
vaita of Kashmir aivism than of Vedanta. See the contributions in this
Volume by H.N. Chakravarty, B.N. Pandit and J.N. Kaul.
244 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
event of the Christie Incarnation. It is here, at this properly
historical and hermeneutical level, that theology will be the
least apophatic and the least negative. It is here that it well
extend itself as a discipline to sound the Mystery of God with
language, all the while remaining incapable of making present
what it seeks to represent. Thus it will limit itself to pointing
out a direction, to indicating, to showing.
Finally, the fourth level is that in which theologia and
theoria [contemplation, in Greek] merge. Here, theology is no
longer a rational deduction from premises revealed through
the Scriptures or through defined dogmas, but a vision. Not
a vision of the divine essence, but, indeed, of the deifying
Taboric Light which is Communication of God himself and
participation in trinitarian life. This new knowledge, the most
elevated possible, is founded on the distinction between the
divine essence and the uncreated but participatable energies.
Illuminated, transfigured or realized man transcends every
thing created, and reaches a sort of indistinction with God
otherwise called deification and surpasses any duality,
without falling into a pantheistic type of identification as
some have suggested. Here theology will always be discursive,
while experiential. It is no longer so much a language on
even though it retains all the appearances but a language
from, a language flowing from within, whose expressions are
surpassed by the excess or plenitude of a presence. This lan
guage freely and spontaneously flows from and expresses it
self on the basis of the ineffable experience of the mystical
union. Literature having this mystical union as its theme is
no doubt abundant, but, paradoxically, deals with what one
can neither say nor know. In the last analysis, the deification
experience ends up expressing itself in the unsaid of language.
Henceforth theology will be less a search for positive knowl
edge about the divine being than an experience of what is
beyond all understanding.
Descy: Christian East
These four movements or levels which we have distin
guished in theology ought, in fact, to be reducible to only
two: that of God ad intra for one cannot dissociate the di
vine essence from its hypostases and that of God ad extra
knowable in His energies.
Transcendence, Language and Postmodernity
Is apophasis and personal participation in the Divine contra
dictory? They are in fact the two irreducible poles of one and
the same experience which, such as it is formulated in the
Eastern Christian Tradition but also in part in Western
apophatism paradoxically corresponds to the status and
responds to the demands of a postmodern theology.24 Here,
spiritual truth will henceforth bear the mark of the relation
between the effacement of a particular significant event, and
what they make possible, that is a dissemination of mean
ing in the field of interpretations. But, in short, these marks
or words are bearers of a primary, original meaning allowing
theology to effect a legibility in the real. But the significance
of this theological discourse remains within language.
Going further, deconstructionist thought tears metaphys
ical status away from the sign, for there is nothing signi
fied whih is not already in the position of a signifier. As
a consequence, scripture, or discourse, consists in a play of
differences, of continual referrals, deconstructing the meta
physical notion of God or that of the subjects presence to
self, thus depriving the question of the origin of meaning of
all pertinence. Meaning is drawn into a process of dissemina
tion, indefinite this time, barring the very possibility of the
hermeneutical enterprise which postulates a meaning and a
signifier-signified rapport. Every sign being always already
inscribed within an interpretative network, there is no first
a4Th. J.J. Altizer et a!., Deconstruction and Theology, New York, 1982;
M.C. Taylor, Erring. A Postmodern A/t heology, Chicago, 1984.
246 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
truth to interpret. This is the indefinite referral of signifier
to signifier. Certitude is inaccessible given the perpetual in
stability of the sign. Meaning is formed and deformed in a
continuous interweaving, in such a way that an interpreta
tion never unveils a definitive meaning, but enlarges the text
or speech in producing new meanings. Language possesses
no definitive meaning but always remains transitional and
Thus, consciousness apprehends only signs disposed in a
differential network. Transcendental signified disappears and
makes the divine milieu possible, conceived as non-totalizable
totality, where the finite is an interior dimension of infinitude,
and reciprocally. The death of God in the secular city can
henceforth be understood in terms of a radical christology,
whose Logos is always necessarily spermatikos,25 meaning in
a perpetual motion of dissemination.
Modernity called the discursive and practical structures
upon which traditional society rested into question. Decon-
structive analysis calls into question the totality of the net
work of notions and concepts which founded philosophical
and theological thought, such as the priority of the subject
over predicates, as well as its alleged independence. But the
subject is itself always already linked to a linguistic network
and becomes a function of a given tongue.
This radical dispossession of the subject opens end
less possibilities of overtures. Doesnt it seem to rejoin the
theologico-mystical experience of the Christian East which
also concludes to the radical incompletion of the tradition as
an attempt at closure and mastery of meaning?
25 Justin, I Apol., 32, 8; II Apol. , 8, 1; 10, 2; 13, 3.
Jankinath Kaul Kamal
yd kdcidvai kvacidapi dasa
anandakhya bhavabhayahard
sydt subhaktasya sadyah;
sidhissaisa sumpitrrndm
yasya bhaktyd bhavennu
tam svdtmdnam vibhavavapusam
sadgurum vai prapadye.
That indescribable supreme state which is re
vealed in a spontaneous moment (of grace) re
gardless of time or place to an earnest devo
tee, while he has been absorbed continuously in
spiritual practice for an unknown period, confers
supreme joy ( ananda) that wipes off all doubt
and fear whatsoever. That is verily the true ac
complishment for celestials, for manes and for hu-
mait beings. By whose grace this happens, to That
Great Preceptor of supreme splendour who is my
own Self, this prostration is made.
Rediscovery of the 3aiva faith was made around the ninth cen
tury AD in Kashmir, conspicuously by Vasugupta to whom
/ /
the Siva-Sutras were revealed by Lord Siva Himself. Vasug-
uptas Spanda Kdrikd, a purport of the Siva-Sutras, was
elaborated by his well-conducted disciple, Kallata by name.
Kallata Bhatta is therefore known as the first acarya of the
Spanda order of Kashmir 6aivism, which is also called Trika
248 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Sdstra (or Sdsana), because it evidently discusses the three
modes of Reality viz. TVara, 3iva and the connecting link &akti
( narasaktisivdtmakam trikam, Abhinavagupta, Pardtrisika
Vivarana) precisely known as apara, para and pardpara, an
evidence of the monistic character of the Tantras. Later
Somanandanathas Siva Drsti and Utpaladevas Isvarapratya-
bhijnd respectively introduced and elucidated the Pratya-
bhijnd thought by which name Kashmir Saiva Mysticism is
known today.
Before this development, according to Swami Laksman

Joo, the last exponent of Kashmir Saivism, the Kula system,

advocating the highest form of 3iva, had been introduced in
Kashmir some time in the fourth century AD and the Krama
system, connected with raja yoga and kundalim yogay which
stress the independence of vital airs and mind, had existed
there even earlier, as is witnessed through Yoga Vdsistha. The
Vedantic thought of Gaudapada and Sankaracarya through
their Mdndukya Kdrikds and Prasthdnatrayi respectively had
also influenced Kashmir simultaneously. The result was that
Kashmir Saiva Mysticism (i.e., Trika philosophy) developed
with ideas relevant to the order from almost all schools of
Indian philosophy. Kashmir Saivism, in its entirety, was fur
ther elaborated in a systematic form by the great Master
Abhinavaguptapada in his Tantrdloka. Among his other im
portant works, Pardtrisika Vivarana that explains the secret
of Tantric mysticism, is the most outstanding one. Thus, Ab-
hinavagupta gave clear dimensions to Saivism that had de
veloped with its different forms in Kashmir.
Consequently, there are different means suggested for at
tainment of supreme beatitude that every human being, celes
tials and manes aspire for directly or indirectly. But the most
direct and easy way is to have the grace of a guru and the
impact of his power, called saktipdta. Even while the means
are followed by aspirants in accordance with their individual

Kaul: Saktipata 249

capacities, levels of intellect or intensity in devotion, there
arises need of one important thing for all and that is compas
sion ( krpd) or favour (anugmhd) which the Tantric Acaryas
called saktipdta. To my mind it appears necessary to under
stand saktipdta in three ways namely (i) what it is, (ii) when
it happens and (iii) how it works.
What Saktipata Is
Saktipdta is difficult to define, but it is certainly more than
just the absence of desire. It reflects a state of consciousness,
serene and taintless, and virtually constitutes the sovereign
will of Lord Siva. In English language we strictly call it grace
and not favour, because the latter is measurable against its
opposite term disfavour. Grace is immeasurable. It is an el
egance of manner* a graciousness, which can only be a gift
from God. It is not given because we desire it. God gives
this gift out of intense love for the devotee whom he chooses
to be blessed. Grace does not descend even upon an aspi
rant who is actually alert for it or ever in samadhi. Sage
Astavakra said to Janaka: ayameva hi te bandhah samadhim
avatisthasi This is what binds you, because you always sit
in samadhi'.1 Grace may descend in passive alertness which
is actually choiceless awareness of Divinity. Saktipdta, there
fore, may depend on the power of complete surrender to the
Absolute isvara-pranidhanad vd2 according to the Yoga
Sutra of Patanjali. The aspirant says to himself:
What have I to do with wishing,
His will be done.
To Him surrendered
I have no wish of my own.
ParvatT seems to have made such an utterance to herself when
3iva, in the guise of a brahmacdri, came to see the depth of
1Astavakra Gita.
2 Yoga Sutra 1.23.
250 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
her faith that had led her to severe penance. No sooner did
the brahmacdn want to deviate her mind from Lord Siva than
she wanted to turn away from his presence. But how far! She
could neither go ahead nor keep back. This situation is beau
tifully expressed by Kalidasa: sailddhirdjatanayd na yayau
na tasthau.3 It was that divine ecstasy, that abrupt bloom of
supreme consciousness where there is no coming in or go
ing out. Parvati experienced perfect bliss on recognising the
presence of 3iva Himself.
Saktipdta, according to monistic mysticism, is uncondi
tional and unhindered. Ndtra kopi dtmiya purusak&rah vi-
dyate There is no human effort for earning saktipdta. Gale
padikayd ndtha niyate sadgurum prati One is directed to
the great preceptor as if tethered with a rope. The Upanisad
also declares:
yamevaisa vrnute tena labhyas
tasaisa dtmd vivrnute tanum svdm.
Katha Upanisad 11.23
The Atman can be realized only by him whom He
favours and to him He reveals Himself.
Dattatreyas Avadhuta Gita begins with the declaration:
tsvaranugrahadeva pumsam advaita vdsand.4 It is
through the Lords grace alone that one is led to monistic
practices for self-realization. It is, therefore, by the indepen
dent will of Lord Siva that saktipdta or Divine grace may be
granted to anyone at any place and even at any time. It is
a transmission through guru-sakti through which the sakti in
the person of the disciple is awakened and activated. And
that is natural, says M.P. Pandit.5 Clarifying further For
this discipline revolves upon an axis of two ends, the guru
3 Kumdrasambhava V.85.
4 Anugrahai s synonymous with aktipata in this context.
Siaktipata' in M.P. Pandit, Traditions in Sadhana, pp. 129-30.
K sl uI: aktipata
and the disciple. In the dynamics of this yogic sddhand both
have their parts to play. True, the major role is played by the
power of the guru which initiates and works the yoga. But
the disciple too has a responsibility. He has to contain and
support the saktipata in its continued workings. Ceaseless pu
rification and reorientation of ones energies of the body, life
and mind so as to collaborate with the power set in operation
by the guru is indispensable . . . Personal exertion, in some
form or other, is necessary to equip and perfect the adhdra
in which the guru releases his tapas-sakti. At any rate, it is
indispensable till the nature and the being of the disciple are
completely surrendered to the higher will that is active and
his sddhand is entirely taken charge of by the sakti.
It is evident, therefore, that surrender (prapatti) and grace
( saktipata) go together as is concretely expressed by Kesava-
murti of Sri Aurobindo Ashrama: It looks as if in the scheme
of manifestation, both man and God wait for some excuse
one to receive the grace and the other to bestow it, and at the
end of the long journey both man and God fuse in a grand
play Li7d.6
Thus saktipata is an indefinite point of contact between
jtva and Isvaray where the formers individual age merges
completely in the Supreme Reality, the monistic sovereignty
that the"wise call Eternal Joy and Perfect Bliss.
Divine grace is that light whose presence removes the
darkness of ignorance with all its associated doubts. It
changes a guessing game into a vivid and colourful experience
of Supreme awakening where there is not an iota of duality
all self everywhere Lsarvamidam aham ca brahmaiva?\
* /*
says the Sruti. Utpaladeva prayed to Lord Siva and pined to
get firmly established in this super state:
anyavedyamanumatramasti na
svaprakasamakhilam vijrmbhate,
6 Versatile Genius, Edited by M.P. Pandit.
252 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
yatra ndtha! bhavatah pure sthitim
tatra me kuru sadd tavdrcituh.
Sivastotravali XIII.9
Where not even a trace
Of otherness exists,
Where self-luminosity is everywhere manifest,
There, in your city,
Let me reside
Forever as your worshipper.
(Tr. C. Rhodes-Baijly)
The Upanisad also tells about the favour granted to
Brahma among devas, to Sanaka among rsis and to Sukadeva
among human beings, who remain not even for a moment
without the awareness of Supreme Consciousness.
ksanardham naiva tisthanti vrttim jndnamayim
yathd tisthanti brahmddydh sanakadyah sukd-
Abhinavagupta calls this state jagaddnanda, universal bliss,
imparted to him by his guru through saktipdta:
yatra kopi vyavacchedo
nasti yadvisvatah sphurat.
yadandhatasamvitti paramamrta brmhitam,
yatrasti bhavanddindm na mukhyd kdpi sangatih.
tadeva jagadanandam asmabhyam sambhur-
TA V.50-52
Where there is no gap of thought, no distraction,
Which is the universal gleam of consciousness,
Ever new, ever iVWed with increasing how of divine
Kaul: aktipata 253
Where there is no sitting for samadhi etc.
That is jagadananda as explained to me by
Blessed with saktipata, the aspirant devotee witnesses no dis
tinction between within and without, between the knower and
the known. He has realized that Brahman is ever the same,
residing in all things. In the words of Sri Aurobindo7 . .
the highest emergence is the liberated man, who has realized
the self and spirit within him, entered into the cosmic con
sciousness, passed into union with the eternal and so far as he
still accepts life and action, acts by the light of energy of the
Power within him working through his human instruments of
Nature. After this state is revealed to an aspirant through
saktipata of the utmost intensity Hivrdtitivrd as classed
by Abhinavagupta nothing can shake his sense of Reality.
There is no pain above this and no joy beyond this for him
as is endorsed by the Bhagavad Gita itself:
yam labdhvacaparam labham
manyate nadhikam tatah,
yasmin sthito na duhkhena gurundpi vicdlyate
BG VI.22
He-vwins a prize beyond all others or so he
thinks. Therein he (firmly) stands, unmoved by
any suffering, however grievous it may be.
(Tr. R.C. Zaehner)
When saktipata happens and the ego gets consumed in the
fire of Gods wisdom, the devotee gets dissolved in the ocean
of His love. That ananda of Para Brahman is knowable only in
experience, when there is slow dawning of Rtambhara PrajniP
consciousness full of Truth. Then there is the revelation of
7 Essays on the Gita.
8Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 1.48.
254 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Para Brahman at the lucky moment of saktipdta. It operates
in every line of spiritual effort when the most pious rela
tion of Preceptor-Disciple is recognized. Saktipdta works in*
different forms at different levels of spiritual progress. Abhi-
navaguptapada in his Tantraloka has discussed at length the
different levels of consciousness at which saktipdta works in
a systematic combination of its three basic forms, viz. tivra
(intense), madhya (middle) and manda (slow). Saktipdta, be
ing an integral part of the Indian spiritual tradition, is made
to happen by the preceptor who has capacity and the higher
sanction to effect the pdta in the disciple whom he chooses
or is directed to choose. Such a guru is capable of regulat
ing and, if necessary, checking this course of Power already
released into action. In the latter case also there is an injunc
tion prescribed in the Tantra:
viparita pravrtitvam jndnam tasmdt samdharet
Finding opposite or negative inclination in the
disciple, the guru should draw back the infused
power of knowledge from him.
To quote a few examples of positive inclinations: (i) Kaka-
bhusandi9 lived the long life of yogi-jivanmukta on being es
tablished in the middle path of the two breaths, prdna and
apdna with perfect knowledge of self as also evidenced
in the Netra Tantra. His supreme consciousness had awakened
through the grace of prana-kundalim. (ii) Queen Cudala10 is
described to have worked grace on her husband Sikhidhvaja
at the mental plane. She aroused his ciUkundalinitelling him
Recognize kundaliniin your self, that is the very life of mind
which is called puryastaka. Such a grace is imparted like the
scent of a flower., by means of touch, (iii) Hanuman, directed
by king Sugriva for spying, was chosen for saktipdta through
9 Yoga Vasistha, Nirvana Prakarana.
Ka.nl: Saktipata
bodha-kundalinv, when he met Sri Rama, who had been wan
dering in the forest of Kiskindha in search of Slta. Hanuman
recognized his divine preceptor in Rama who graced him
through mere sight. Both had met in their choiceless aware
ness. Saktipata, thus, takes place in a situation of desire-
lessness or kdma-sarnnyasa, which the Bhagavad-Gxta calls
karma-samnydsa or niskama-karma-yoga.u This may be pos
sible only when the individual ego is not able to work for its
limited ends and when actions are performed with detach
ment but devotion and to the best of ones ability. Then the
endless chain of karma also ceases ksiyante cdsya karmdni
tasmin drste pardvare,12 When the Supreme Reality is re
vealed, all karmas13 ( dgdmi, sancita and prarabdha) are put
to flight.
God-realization, the wise say, is an over-all change
in mental attitude of a sadhaka. It is spiritual entirety
and that divine transformation comes in a moment when
the grace of saktipata works through. It comes instanta
neously, almost unaware. For that Brahma-world is ever
illumined.14 The sadhaka blessed with very intense ( txvra-
txvra) saktipata, has not to strive or search for it. It comes
spontaneously to him like a surprise gift. Among the thou
sand names of Para Sakti listed in the 139 Sanskrit verses
in Bhavdninamasahasrastutih, there are names like mmesa,
meghamdla: and muhurta extolling the deity, who is one with
Para Siva. The name nimesa connotes that Para Sakti be
stows grace of saktipata in a moment, like the high tension
power of electricity, which is blissfully soothing and eternally
sweet. Para Sakti is named imeghamdld>as She acts like a
streak of lightning in the clouds. The Divine Mothers grace
11 Bhagavad-Gxta Ch. III.
12 Mundaka Upanisad II.2.9.
13 According to plural form of Sanskrit grammar it means more than
two or all the three kinds of karma.
14 Chandogya Upanisad VIII.4.2 sakrdvibhato hyevaisa brahmalokah.
may rise from anywhere or may get absorbed at any moment.
Her grace accelerates the degree of awareness in an aspirant.
The name {,muhurto>stands for the equinoctial point of grace.
$iva, according to aiva mysticism, is the great Guru. His
grace remains always unlocked. ParvatT or sakti is the power
of His grace, known as guroranugrdhikd sakti in the Saiva-
3akta way of thought. 3iva impels grace through His sakti
who, with Her own free will, effects saktipdta on a sincere
and earnest devotee; the when-where-and-how of which can
not be known. It is an internal process concealed in the rarely
catchable moment at the equinoctial point. The devotee who
is passively aware of the Supreme Self, may benefit from
this flowing grace. That moment is like the moment of pass
ing colour shades of the setting sun 1sandhyabhralekheva
muhurtaranga?.15 In yogic parlance that moment of grace is
also termed visuvaV and labhijit\ quite different from uttara
mdrga (higher path) and daksina mdrga (lower path), as re
ferred to in the Bhagavad-Gita, the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad,
the Paficastavi, etc. For an external illustration the two mo
ments geographically correspond with summer equinox and
winter equinox. But in the internal setting of the moment
there is no taint of any thought whatsoever, as is beauti:
fully put by Sri Samba: utdbhydmanyd visuvadabhijin ma-
dhyamd krtyasunyd,16 It is called madhya mdrga, the middle
path or royal path. This middle path of graceful character is
krtyasunya, without any taint of action, for there is no egress
or ingress of prdna and apdna for the period one can remain
in the state. It is the state of perfect ease, termed samddhi,
the state of bliss.
sukhamatyantikam yat tadbuddhigrahyamat-
256 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
15 Pancatant ra 1.194.
16SSmbapancasikav. 49.
Kaul: >aktipata.
vetti yatra na caivdyam sthitascalati tattvatah.
BG VI.21
Nay, in which the soul experiences the eternal
and super-sensuous joy which can be apprehended
only through the subtle and purified intellect, and
wherein established the said yogi moves not from
Truth on any account.
It is then that saktipdta may come to happen out of sovereign
How Saktipata Works
Saktipdta affords what is called the waking samadhV to the
devotee yogin to whom effortless normal state of conscious
ness is revealed. Utpaladeva uses the phrase vyuthdnepi
samdhitah517 wherein, in his own words, there is sponta
neous revelation of Supreme Reality levameva sivdbhdsah
sydt !ls Astavakra uses almost the same phrase to effect his
grace upon Janaka. That is Levameva sukhi bhava?.19 By this
it becomes clear that saktipdta is bestowed, not obtained.
Lord Siva, in the form of guru, gives the aspirant ammuni
tion to fight the attraction towards petty enjoyments of the
world. Otherwise, the search remains a mere intellectual ex
ercise and the individual soul becomes an easy prey to con
fusion, doubt and frustration. Since the source of grace is the
real Self, all beings can partake of it equally. But the veil of
ego, even though unreal, blocks the light of grace as do the
clouds which cover the sun and make its life-giving power in
effective. One has, therefore, to wait and watch with passive
spontaneity as is said : Waiting for the word of the Mas
ter, watching His hissing sound. One has only to be alert
17 SivastotravalT.
19Ast avakra GftS.
258 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
with purity of mind and sincerety of heart till saktipdta is
bestowed. Then how it works, is remarkably expressed in the
Sat Darsana Bhdsya of Sri Ramana Maharshi: C4The Beyond
takes hold of you. You can feel yourself one, with the One
that exists, the whole body becomes a mere power, a force
current; your life becomes a needle drawn to a huge mass of
magnet and as you go deeper you become a mere centre and
not even that, for you become mere consciousness. There are
no thoughts and cares any longer; they are shattered at the
threshold; it is an inundation, you are a mere straw; you are
swallowed alive, but it is very delightful for you become the
very thing that swallows you. This is the union of jtva with
Brahman, the loss of ego in the real self, the destruction of
ignorance, the attainment of Truth.
Saktipdta worked on 3ukadeva when king Jan aka told
him: mithildydm pradiptdydm na me dahyati kincana.
Even if the whole of Mithila burns, nothing is burnt to me.
Saktipdta worked in MaitreyT when she posed a resounding
question to sage Yajnyavalkya, her husband, while he was re
nouncing: That which cannot give me immortality of what
avail is that property to me?20 It worked in Namadeva21
when he ran after the dog who had taken away his bread.
The saint ran after the dog saying, 0 my Gopala! just stop
and let me apply butter to the bread so that you swallow it
with ease. This is how saktipdta works.
In the end I again quote Ramana Maharshi, who gave a
practically useful prescription for aspirants to follow: Re
treat ever within thine own self, seek the source whence
the restless mind spins out an unceasing web of thoughts,
brush aside the springing thought, concentrate at the root
of thought and take repose in that stillness and quietude. So
20 Br hadar any ak a U p a n i s a d l l A . 3 yen ah am n a mr t d s y d m k i ma h a m
t ena k u r y d m?
21A devotee of medieval age.
Kaui: Saktipata 259
much is thy effort. What next is one for inner realization and
does not admit of exposition in words.
The Nine Variations of Saktipata
Actually there are no classes of grace. These are, as Abhi-
navagupta himself says, only the variations between intensity
and slow process.22 The nine degrees of saktipata discussed
in the Tantrdloka and Tantrasdra, are in brief:
I. Tivra-tivra or the grace of extreme intensity: This is
spontaneous and sudden, infused with the great power
mahasaktih samdvistah.23 Jayaratha, in his commentary of
Tantraloka, says that the person who happens to receive this
degree of saktipata is fit for experiencing the wonderful Re
ality of Supreme consciousness.24 It is impressed that such
a soul cannot live in a body and that he is automatically
liberated at once.25
II. Madhya-tivra or the grace of middle intensity: With
this degree of grace ignorance gets dissolved because the yogin
himself knows the essence of liberation and bondage through
his own wisdom and not from the (external) guru or sastra:
madhyativralpunah sarvamajndnam vinivartate.
svayameva yato vetti bandhamoksatayatmatdm,
tatprdtibham mahdjndnam sdstracdrydnapeksi
TA XIII.131-32
His body remains but ignorance vanishes.26 He has unflinch
ing devotion to Rudra-Siva: radra bhaktih suniscMld' 27 This
32 Tantraloka XIII.210 1tatrdpi laratamyadivasacchighraciraditali.
lbid., XIII.211.
24Ibid., (comm) XIII.211 parasamvit camatkarSnubhavalabha
hhdj nnam bhavat i t yar t haH.
1 1bid.. XIII.110 *tivrativrah saktipdto dehapatavasat svayam
tnoksaprada itt.'
26Ibid., (comm.) na dehasya niurttih kintu ajndnasya*.
27Ibid., XIII. 214.
260 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
sign of the yogi, according to Purvasdstrd28 is followed by
mantrasiddhih accomplishment of the divine syllable. The
third sign is control over all the elements lsarvatattva
vasitvam\ The fourth sign is indifference towards the fruit
of actions of previous birth Lprarabdhakaryanispattih and
the fifth sign is perfection in knowledge and speech
kavitvam sarvasastrdrthavettrtvam*.
III. Manda-tivra or the grace of slow intensity: The yogin
gets eager to meet his precepter who is perfect in every re
spect samsiddhah samskrtoypi ca\ 29 He becomes instantly
liberated at the time when his preceptor initiates him into the
Absolute and continues to live in the body as a jivanmukta
yasmin kale tu gurund nirvikalpam prakdsitam,
tadaiva kila muktosau yantram tisthati kevalam\
TA XIII.230-31
All doubt regarding pain and pleasure of the body goes off.30
IV. Tivra-madhya or the grace of intense middle degree:
When initiation does not become firm in the aspirant be
cause of certain persisting impressions, these haunt the mind
throughout his life, and so there is absence of comprehension
of the Absolute. He knowingly asserts that he is Siva but
gets release only after leaving the mortal coil.31 He is called
putraka sddhaka.
V. Madhya-madhya or the grace of middle degree of mid
dle intensity: The yogin, even being earnest to profit by at
taining ivahood sivaldbhotsukopi son32 enjoys yogic ac
28Mdlinxvijaya Tantra VIII. 13.
29 Tantraloka, XIII.224.
30lbid., XI I I . 231 prSrabdhakarmasambandhSd-dehasya sukhi-
duhkhite na vifariketa*.
31 Tantraloka XIII.242 vikalpdttu tanau sthitvd dehante iivatdm
32Ibid.t XIII.242.
Ka.nl: $aktipata 261
complishments in the same body and finally on its fall attains
to Siva.33 Such an aspirant is known as sivadharmt.
VI. Manda-madhya or the grace of slowed middle inten
sity: This aspirant in the category of sivadharmt, enjoys yogic
accomplishments in the following birth. After that he attains
to Siva through the slow degree of saktipdta?4
VII. Tivra-manda or the grace of slow but intense degree:
The aspirant sustains with the power of initiation. He enjoys
his desired accomplishments through some lives. In the long-
run he takes to the path of sakala or akala (concrete or abso
lute) according to his capacity and finally attains 3ivahood.
Such an aspirant is called lokadharmi;
VIII. Madhya-manda or the grace of slow-but-middle de
gree: The aspirant of this category enjoys his accomplish
ments through some more births and life experiences and fi
nally gets initiation in the course of attainment of Sivahood.
IX. Manda-manda or the grace of slow, very slow degree:
The aspirant, by and by passes through sdlekya (seeing from
near), sdmipya (being near) and sdyujya (becoming one with)
stages of spiritual development and only after enjoying the ac
complished desires, receives initiation for proceeding towards
the attainment of Sivahood. There is essential relation be
tween saktipdta and kundalint: Awakening of kundalint sakti
takes place with corresponding variations of saktipdta. In fact,
it is the power of grace that brings about various blossoms on
the tree of kundalint. It is the sovereign will of lord 6iva that
' /
works through Sakti-ParvatT, unconditioned by any human
effort. It falls spontaneously on any seeker after truth in its
own range of variety comprising intense (fum), middle (mad-
hya) and slow (manda) degrees. This trichotomy of saktipdta
33 Tantrasara XI a ca yogdbhydsalabdhamancnaiva dehena bhogam
bhuktvd dehdntc iva eva\
34 Tantrasara XI nikrsta madhyat tu dehantarena bhogam bhuktvd
ivatvamr. tr.
262 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
apparently works through kundalint sakti in various ways of
its various states. It is therefore that this essential power is
given the name mahakundalini. The nine degrees of saktipata
are described to set a standard for aspirants who have to com
prehend the intricacies and subtleties within the limitations
of their minds. According to different modes of the awaken
ing of kundalint the nine kinds of saktipata are classified un
der three heads: (i) tivra, comprising tivra-tivra, madhya-tivra
and manda-twra, falls in the region of bodha kundalim, which
awakens through the grace of sudden and spontaneous reve
lation of Supreme knowledge, (ii) Madhya comprising tivra-
madhya, madhya-madhya and manda-madhya, is the range
of cit-kundalini or grace through citta, i.e. reflection, med
itation, etc. (iii) Manda comprising tivra-manda, madhya-
manda and manda-manda, is the work of prana-kundalini,
the grace initiating the right practice of prdna and apdna or
simply called prdndydma including japa and other modes of
saguna worships. Awakening of kundalint thus takes place in
the corresponding degrees of saktipata.
Peace be to all
on this earth, in the sky and beyond.
Mysticism of Being in the Thirteenth Century in
Odette Baumer-Despeigne
We still possess three fourteenth-century manuscripts of
Hadewijch of Antwerps writings which contain thirty-one
Letters; forty-five Poems in Stanzas; sixteen Poems in Coup
lets] and fourteen Visions followed by a so-called List of Per
f e c t s Of the three manuscripts, only one does not contain
thirteen additional Poems in Couplets (Poems 17 through
29).1 While Hadewijch of Antwerps writings are thought
to have been produced between 1220 and 1240, recent re
search attributes Poems 17 through 29 to another Bguine
who wrote about a decade later. The Carthusian, Dom J.
B. Porion dates these additional Poems at 1250, names the
author Hadewijch II and her lyrics New Poems. Most cer
tainly, says Porion, Hadewijch II belonged to the same circle
of Bguines and is spiritually so near that she is called by
the same name.2 The present essay is based on Hadewijch of
Antwerps Letters and Poems. All quotations follow Mother
1Hadewijch of Antwerp and Hadewijch IPs writings were circulating
during the fourteenth century, then disappeared by the middle of the
sixteenth. They were rediscovered only in 1867. J. Van Mierlo published
them between 1908 and 1952. Abbreviations: Lett ers: L.; Poems in St an
zas: PS.; Poems in Couplets: PC.
2 Hadewijch d'Anvers, Pomes des Bguines, Traduits du Moyen-
Nerlandais par Fr. J.B.Porion, Paris, Ed. du Seuil, 1954-85.
264 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Columba Harts translation, Hadewijch, The Complete Works
(London: SPCK, 1981). The Visions are intentionally left out
as we want to focus on her doctrinal work, Letters and Poems,
written, so to say, from a waking state of consciousness, vi
sionary literature being a theme in itself. For Hadewijch II we
follow the only existing translation into a modern language,
that by J.B. Porion, Hadewijch d Anvers, Ecrits mystiques
des Bguines3, with additional references to the critical edi
tion in Middle Dutch.4
From a historical point of view we do not know anything
about Hadewijch of Antwerp, except the fact that her name
designates her birthplace. Fortunately, we have an important
testimony of Hadewijchs historical existence in the words of
John of Leuuwen, the cook and disciple of the Dutch mystical
writer John Ruusbroec who wrote a century after her death:
We know of a saint and glorious woman called
Hadewijch who was an authentic spiritual guide.
The doctrine she expresses in her books is cor
rect and inspired by God. . . . b u t not useful for
everyone, for many whose inner eye has not yet
been opened by pure and silent love are not able
to understand.5
This testimony proves that Hadewijch was known and con
sidered by Ruusbroec himself to be an authority in spiritual
matters. In fact he integrated many of her thoughts in his own
theological works. Mother Hart says in her introduction to
Hadewijchs complete works: Ruusbroec took over the vari
ous elements of her mystical thought, deepened and enlarged
3Sce footnote 2.
4 Hadewijch Mengeldichten opnieuw uitgiven door Dr J. Van mierlo,
S.J. Antwerpen, Standard, 1952, (pp. 87-142).
5J. Van Leeuwen, qtd. by Heszler, Stufen der Mi nne bet Hadewijch
in: Frauenmystik im Mitt elal ter%Schwaben Verlag, Stuttgart 1985, pp.
B&umer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 265
them through his knowledge of theology and metaphysical
psychology, and built from them his spiritual synthesis.6 It
is important to add that Ruusbroec indifferently quotes both
Hadewijch of Antwerp and Hadewijch II.7
Hadewijch of Antwerps importance is only fully under
stood in terms of her formation and life as a Bguine, and in
terms of events which occurred in the Low Countries during
the thirteenth century which influenced the emergence of new
types of religious vocations, including the organization of six
crusades, the advent of the bourgeoisie, the expansion of the
cities and trade and the foundation of the first universities.
During Hadewijchs life, dissolute behaviour and corruption
of the clergy were widespread. Monastic life was not every
where in a much better condition; in many monasteries the
primitive rule was no longer observed.
In reaction to this situation a great fervor animated many
layers of society zealously at work in religious renewal. In
response to an intensified clericalization of the Church, a new
mentality arose among lay men and women, who began to
recognize the Gospel as their sole rule of conduct.8 Spiritual
life thus became an individual concern.9 The view of Joachim
of Flora (d.1202), in particular his foreseeing of a renewal in
the Holy Spirit with the coming of time were widely spread
and often repeated.
Within this context, the Bguinal movement represents
a spontaneous upheaval at the turn of the twelfth century
0 Hadewijch, Complete Works, 15.
7St Axters, Hadewijchals voorlonpsler van de zalige Jan Ruusbroec, in
L.Reypens Album Ruusbroec Genouzschap, Antwerpen, 1964, pp. 57-72.
G. Epinay-Burgard, L'influence des Bguines sur Ruusbroec, in Mediae-
valia Lovaniensia 1, Louvain 1984.
8 J. Leclercq, Histoire de la spi rit uali t chrt ienne, Paris, Aubier 1961,
9C. Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mi ll ier, Berkely, California UP, 1982,
pp. 82-109.
266 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
amongst spiritually minded lay women who wanted to lead a
simple life dictated by the Gospel. They voluntarily practised
chastity and poverty without joining any existing religious
Order. The Bguines had neither a founder nor a foundress
and were not an offshoot of monasticism. They wanted to
remain independent and free from religious formalism.
The first group of Bguines emerged in the Duchy of Bra
bant. The oldest of those lmuliercs religiosae (pious women)
was Mary of Oignies (1177-1213). In her biography, Magister
Jacques de Vitry writes that Mary was a literate woman mar
ried to a rich merchant in Nivelles. Following their religious
longings both decided to retire to a nearby leprosarium and
take care of the sick. They stayed there twelve years. During
that time Mary acquired such a great reputation for sanctity
that she was overwhelmed with visitors, clerics and lay peo
ple. Feeling the need to lead a more solitary life, she went
with her husbands agreement to Oignies and settled
down as a lay sister in a little house next to the priory of the
Augustinin canons.
In spite of her desire to remain unknown, she became
the spiritual mother of the priory and again a multitude
of visitors from far and near came to receive her advice.
One visitor from Paris was her future biographer, Jacques
de Vitry. With Marys encouragement, he joined the Augus-
tinians and became a popular wandering preacher. His ser
mons were so much the reflected image of Marys zeal for the
cure of souls, that he could say of himself: I was merely
her instrument.10 He ends his biography of her, saying that:
On her death-bed she praised the Trinity in Oneness and
Oneness in the Trinity at length.11
As early as 1208 it is recorded that, inspired by Mary,
10E.W. McDonnell, The Bguines and Beghards in Medieval Culture,
New York, Octagon, 1969, 23.
n McDonnell 381.
Bauiner-Despeigne: Hndewijcli of Antwerp 2()7
seven women were living together in Nivelles and consecrating
their lives to prayer and charitable works. They were spiri
tually guided by Master John of Nivelles, in close connection
with the Cistercian Abbey of Villers. This intense and fer
vent religious movement spread like wildfire, and groups of
Bguines were formed in all cities of the Low Countries as well
as in France and Germany.12 Neither simple lay women nor
nuns, the Bguines formed pious associations whose num
bers went into the hundreds and even thousands. Everywhere
they had the same aim: to fight silently against the sclerosis
of the hierarchical Church and against the corruption of so
ciety, leading a contemplative life right in the middle of the
cities. To become a Bguine meant to adopt a new style of
religious life, a life of chastity and poverty without following
any canonical rule or taking any vows. This new style of spir
ituality rendered the Bguines less dependent on the tutelage
of the clergy.
Life as a Bguine was open to women of all classes in soci
ety, of all ages, and of all states. They were unmarried, mar
ried (if the husband consented) and widowed. However, most
of them belonged to aristocratic or patrician families. Among
them many were learned persons and highly gifted mystics.
Lamprepht von Regensburg, a contemporary of Hadewijch,
in his poem Die Tochter Sione speaks of pious women liv
ing in Brabant before 1250 whose meditation rendered them
free of themselves and everything and led them to see God
without intermediary, God as He is.13
In the early years of the movement the Bguines re
mained in their own houses, devoting their time to prayer and
works of charity. As their number increased, they joined small
12H. Grundmann, Religise Bewegungen im Mittelalter. Darmstadt,
1961, pp. 431-52. J. Greven, Die Anfnge der Bguinen, Hrs. H. Finke,
Mnster, 1912, 47-53.
lc*Quoted by Porion, 49.
268 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christia.nity
groups living in the house of one of their rich members. In
their turn, small groups joined forces and built small houses
next to each other in courtyard form, with a church in the cen
ter. From then on one can speak of a real Bguinage.14 Each
one was led by a great mistress elected by the Bguines.
The regulations were flexible enough to adapt to every type
of spirituality, including ecstatic prayer, love mysticism or
Minnemystiek and speculative mysticism or Wesensmystik.
Each houses rules differed according to local conditions.
The main concern of the community was to participate
daily in the liturgy, to recite the Hours together, to listen
to spiritual instruction and to devote much time t^ private
contemplation. Most Bguines time was spent in silence in
their own houses so that they never ceased to pray.15 Once
a week they met in council and listened to the sermon of the
great mistress. New candidates were required to undergo
a period of probation during which they were individually
instructed by an older member. As regards the financial or
ganization, the rich members provided for those who were less
well off, donations were received and all of them were obliged
to earn their livelihood by suitable work, such as teaching,
or making lace, spinning, making embroidery. Bguines were
also engaged in works of charity, maintaining hospitals and
nursing the sick people outside the Bguinage.
Parish priests, Cistercians and, later, Franciscans or Do
minicans took pastoral responsibility for them and provided
them with religious writings in the vernacular,16 biblical
translations and excerpts from classics of spirituality. But in
1242, the General Chapter of the Dominicans, afraid to see
women well versed in theological knowledge, forbad the dis
semination of these translations. In spite of this interdiction,
McDonnell, 126, 174, 479-83.
15Bethune, Cartulaire, quoted by McDonnell, 148.
McDonnell, 402.
B&umer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 269
they remained extremely literate, for in some Bguinages they
were able to maintain their own school of Liberal Arts.
As early as in 1216, Jacques de Vitry, now returned to his
clerical state, obtained official recognition by the Papal Curia
of the Bguines new association, thus permitting them to
live in common and to perfect themselves in virtue by mutual
assistance.17 This recognition ensured their autonomy for
the new life-style they had adopted, whose very essence was
its voluntary, temporary and informal character. It also per
mitted the more gifted among them to teach and guide their
sisters. Later, when the Brabant Bguines were suspected of
heterodoxy by a hierarchy sensitive to possible anticlerical-
ism, it is the same Jacques de Vitry who took up their defense.
In the course of time, the ecclesiastical hierarchy attempted
to institutionalize them, some groups did voluntarily sub
mit to canonical constitutions and became monasteries. In
1311 Rome condemned the movement, declaring it should be
abolished for ever from the Church. Nevertheless, in Brabant,
many Bguinages did not submit and resisted the ecclesias
tical ban. They were officially rehabilitated eight years later!
A Portrait of Hadewijch from her Writings
The only source of information concerning Hadewijch of
Antwerps personality is her writings, especially her Letters
mostly addressed to young Bguines. In her we find the origin
and the basis of Flemish mysticism as well as the first author
to write on spiritual matters in the vernacular.18 From the
way she writes we can infer that she belonged to a patrician or
even a noble family, for her works betray a refined education
and the possession of a vast field pf learning. According to the
tradition in the upper classes of society of her time, she must
17McDonnell, 155.
i aJ. Van Mierlo, Hadewijch une mysti que du XIII sicle, Revue
cTAsctique et de Mystique, Toulouse 1924, pp. 268-89.
270 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
have visited a school of Liberal Arts and acquired extended
theological knowledge from another source. She was proficient
in Latin, for she often quotes the Scripture; it is also evident
that her theology is based on a deep acquaintance with the
spiritual classics of masters such as St Augustin, St Bernard,
William of St Thierry. Her use of French expressions reveals
her knowledge of that language. Moreover she was a lyric ge
nius as well as a perfect prose writer; her works stand among
the Masterpieces of Flemish literature.
In the field of poetry she was well informed of the po
etry of the Trouvres. Her poems are written in the language
f courtly love or Minne}9 She feels free to use the term
Minne to express her love relationship with God, and at the
same time transforms its meaning genially to a high spiritual
level. The austere service of love offered to the Lady by the
Trouvres becomes the service of love offered by the soul to
If Hadewijchs writings reveal a very intensive affec
tive life, she never becomes sentimental or childish in the
way she expresses her love for God, even if she does it in
passionate terms: My soul melts away in the madness of
love ( Orewoet).21 In all circumstances she remains a well-
balanced person full of common sense and humour. She writes
to a young Bguine: Always do remain humble in every way,
yet not so humble that you become foolish (L.23). To an
other disciple she says: First be subject to your reason, and
19Afnne, or spiritual love, is of feminine gender in Middle Dutch. The
word li evei s used for carnal love. In fact, Hadewijch gives many different
significations to the word Minne. It means either the spiritual love of
men for God, for the person of Jesus, for the Holy Spirit, for the deity or
for the Divine Essence. It may also designate the Person of the Father
conceived as the origin of the Trinity. Minne is a word belonging to the
language of courtly love.
20Hadewijch, Complete Works, 19.
21 Orewoet or stormy longing, intense longing, rage of love as a re-action
of Gods touch at the root of the soul.
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp
remain without singularities. Dont make a show of your spir
ituality. (L.13). Hadewijch is a noble and fierce soul who
throughout her life and without fault, pursues her way un
waveringly, her whole being concentrated on her ideal. She
plays the role of spiritual mother with self-conscious author
ity, convinced that she fulfills Gods will and that she will be
given the capacity for doing it.
Hadewijch is not a theoretician in mysticism. Her own ex
periences are the source of her writings. She has only to draw
out of the plenitude of her interior maturity. Undoubtedly,
she belongs to the mysticism of Love, the Minnemystiek, but
we would like to demonstrate that she belongs simultaneously
to the deepest current of speculative mysticism. A mysticism
of Being not only underlies all her pursuit of Love but is the
dominant element in her inmost quest.22 In her own words:
Love allures the soul and heart and makes the
soul ascend out of itself and out of Love and into
the essence of Love. (L.20)
According to Hadewijch of Antwerp and Hadewijch II divine
love is paradoxical, for it implies at once a relationship with,
and an absorption in, the inaccessible One.
Hadewijchs Pilgrimage to God
Hadewijch began her adventurous pilgrimage very early:
22Hadewijck, Lettres spirituelles. Martingay, Geneve. 1972. Trad. Fr.
J.B.M. Porion Hadewijch sees everything in the light of Love which is
simultaneously the means and the end of her spiritual life. It is along the
lines of her triple tradition Cistercian, Chivalrous, Beguinal that
we see how she attains a remarkable evolution in her experience as well
as in her way of expressing it: the transformation from Minnemystieks
register to speculative Mysticism of Being, from the search of Love to
the contemplation of the divine Essence. 20.
272 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Since I was ten years old I have been overwhelmed
by such intense love that I should have died if
God had not given me other forms of strength
than people ordinarily receive, and if he had not
renewed my nature with his own Being. ( L. l l )
Throughout her life, Hadewijchs main concern was to show
the way to the depths. Her spirituality is experience-centered
and emerges from her own personal contact with the Mys
tery that lies at the heart of every human being. Her theo
logical reflection is based on Augustinian Exemplarism: We
have to return from whence we come, to what we have not
ceased to be in the Logos.23 As she so uniquely says: We
have not yet become what we are. (L.6) Self-knowledge, in
its deepest sense, is the aim for whicluHadewijch strives. In
L.18 we read:
Understand the deepest essence of your soul, what
soul is . . . Soul is a being that can be beheld by
God and by which again God can be beheld.
It is on such metaphysical principles that her whole spiritu
ality is grounded, while the motive power which propels her
on the way we could even say, her technique is ardent
love of God. A love which is more than affective love, even
more than a stormy fiery longing ( Orewoet). It is a one-
pointed, intense inner tension towards the yet Unknown, the
Absolute, a readiness for total surrender of ones entire self
to God. In her own words: Give yourself to God to become
what He is. (L.2).24 Such is the real originality of Hadewi
jchs way that she proceeds simultaneously along the path of
love and the path of knowledge whose end is Vacuity in the
23St. Axters, La spi rit uali t des Pays-Bas, Paris, Vrin, 1948, p. 48.
24A thought probably inspired by William of Saint Thierry: A will
firmly strained towards God, this is love. Epistola ad Fratres de Mont e
Dei , p. 257 (SC 223 : 348).
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp
undifferentiated Godhead beyond, or at the core of the Three
Persons of the Trinity:
In a divine clarity the soul sees, and it sees noth
ing. It sees a truth Subsistent, Effusive, Total
which is God himself in eternity . . . the Being
of the Godhead in the Unity. (28)
These are certainly daring sayings. Dom Porion, commenting
on this Letter, suggests to readers that they be seen as anal
ogous. We would like to suggest that they somehow be taken
more literally for what they are, an attempt at crystallizing
the ineffable mystical experience which no human utterance
can express:
The soul that has stood so long with the God-
Man that it understands such a wonder as God is
in his Godhead, appears most of the time for those
who are not acquainted with this experience to be
ungodly through too much of godliness, ignorant
through too much knowledge. (L.28)
Hadewijchs spiritual itinerary unfolds in three stages: the
virtuous'service of the beloved Lord, the new path which she
denominates Loves new school and a dimension of con
sciousness which she calls Nothingness in Love.
The noble service of the beloved Lord in all works of
virtues. Speaking with all her authority, she says in L.30:
He who wishes . . . to be one with the Godhead
must adorn himself with all the virtues with which
God clothed and adorned himself when he lived
as a Man.
Not only does she insist on practice, but she exhorts the
274 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
. . . acquire a knowledge of all the virtues and
learn them by exertion, in/by questioning study
and earnest purpose. (L.24)
It is most remarkable how Hadewijch (in Letter 17) also
preaches the practice of virtues in paradoxical terms akin to
those of Zen koans,25 translating them afterwards in terms of
exemplarist theology:
Be generous and zealous for every virtue
But do not apply yourself to any virtue.
This she explains:
The things I order you . . . belong perfectly to
the perfection of Love and belong perfectly and
wholly in the Divinity . . . for to be generous and
zealous is the nature of the Holy Spirit.. . And
not to apply oneself to a particular work is the Na
ture of the Father.. . This pouring out and keeping
back is the pure Divinity and the entire Nature
of Love.
Fail not with regard to a multitude of things,
But perform no particular work.
The first of these verses expresses the power of the
Father.. . The second verse expresses his just will,
with which his justice works its unknown mighty
works. These works are deep and dark, hidden for
all who are below this Unity of the Godhead but
nevertheless render service to each of the Three
And a few paragraphs further she adds:
35 Koan: or a question which cannot be solved through logical reasoning
or intellectual understanding.
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 275
Have good will and compassion for every need,
But take nothing under your protection . . .
and explains:
The first verse expresses what is proper to the
Son, the second expresses the Nature of the
Father26 who engulfs him (the Son) in Himself;
this terrible great work ever belongs to the Father.
Yet it is the unity of purest Love in the Divinity.
This saying may be regarded as a commentary on 1 Cor.
15,28: When everything is subjected to him, the Son himself
will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things
to him, so that God may be all in all, meaning that souls
are engulfed in the Son and together with him in the Father.
The letter ends with these words: How you are to do or omit
each of these things, may God, our Beloved teach you.
The new path or Loves new schooV : Following the
example of the Trouvres, she sings of a spiritual renewal
through Love, under the vestment of the rebirth of nature in
When March begins, we see
All being live again
And all plants spring up
And in a short time turn green.
It is the same with longing,
Particularly that of the true lover (of God).
. . . They who come to Loves new school
With new love,
. . .Love shall cause them to ascend
To Loves highest mystery. (PS.7)
2ttThe Father is takeu here as the Principle of the Trinity. (Porion, 24,
note 18).
276 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
But before one attains this high mystery which is to par
take of and have fruition of27 Loves Nature, Hadewijch knows
only too well that one has to risk many adventures, for the
way which leads to such an experience is paved with trials
and requires a long and patient asceticism. Poem 10 says it
Lo! the day of love is dawning
When men will never fear pain for Loves sake.
She goes so far as to say Love lias driven me to the verge
of death . . .for the fire of love burns to death everything it
ever touches. (PS.16;PC.16) But the fierce Beguine does not
ask for any remedy and goes on questing the depthless
depths of Love, sure that Love always repays even though
it often comes late. (PS.9) Hadewijch insists on this point,
saying that Love requires a total abandonment of all self-
centeredness and is a remorseless process of dying to oneself:
He who wants to remain faithful to Love must enter still
living into death. (PC.10)
In another poem she explains that spiritual life is a dy
namic existence for Love is ever new, it causes the soul at
all times to begin out of a new death.(PS.14). In Letter 19
she states precisely where this dynamism leads:
When the soul is engulfed in God, and brought to
nought.. .the soul becomes with Him all that He
himself is.28
She thus summarizes the programme of Loves new school:
If you wish to follow your being in which God
created you, you should valiantly lay hold on the
27 Ghebruken: to delight in.
28Even when the soul is so absorbed, the created individuality is not
destroyed. Hadewijch compares the smil in that state with the rising sun.
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 277
best part I mean the great totality of God
as your own good. (L.6)
These different quotations show how Hadewijchs love expe
rience extends beyond affectivity, beyond emotiveness; how
she discovered and realized on an experiential level the meta
physical basis of Love mysticism, and how it flows forth into
a mysticism of Being:29
In the light (of Love) we can learn
How we shall love the God-Man
In his Godhead and in his Manhood. (PC.16)
Thus to live Christ as God and Man is the most fascinating
formulation. It means much more than to follow Christ or
live with Christ: It is pregnant with a deep essential experi
ence, which is to live in total accordance with Him as he lived
in consequence of his being God-incarnate. It is experiencing
Jesus as the supreme and unique paradigm of the God-man
relationship, as well as the Man-God relationship.
In Letter 6 written to a dearly beloved, she explains:
With the Humanity of God you must live here
on earth, in the labors and sorrows of exile, while
within your soul you love and rejoice with the
omnipotent and eternal Divinity in sweet aban
donment, for the truth of both the Humanity and
the Divinity is one single fruition.
This last assertion springs out of Hadewijchs own experience.
It echoes a spiritual attainment in which the two poles of in
ner life, the affective and the metaphysical are, at the deepest
level, symbiotically joined. Hadewijch has reached the point
29 Mysticism of Being was wedded to mysticism of Love, Emilie Zum
Brunn and Georgette Epinay-Burgard: Women Mystics in Medieval Eu
rope, New York, Paragon, 1989.
278 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christia.nity
where dialectical oppositions become creative polarities, as
Georges Vallin said.
To attain such a state Hadewijch suggests a special tech
nique which is worth noticing (L.6):
Love the Divinity not merely with devotion
but with unspeakable desires ( Orewoct), always
standing before the terrible and marvellous coun
tenance in which Love reveals herself and engulfed
all works, (italics ours).
It is worth noticing the subtle difference made here between
devotion, a personal and active approach of God and Ore-
woet the fury of love, which reduced the soul to inaction, to
standing in a kind of non-action, in which dialogue ends in
Nothingness in Love. Paradoxically enough, in Poem in
Couplets 16 called Loves Seven Names, the highest name
Hadewijch finds to give is Hell:
Hell is the seventh name.
For there is nothing love does not engulf and
damn, . . .
As Hell turns everything to ruin
In Love nothing else is acquired
But disquiet and torture without pity.
. . .(the soul) is wholly devoured and engulfed
In her unfathomable essence.
After passing such an ordeal, Hadewijch realizes that she has
undergone a deep inner metamorphosis and can only stam
What has happened to me now?
I have given away all that I am.
I am not mine:
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 279
Love has engulfed the substance of ray spirit.30
What else could be added to such a statement? Love made
her penetrate into a new dimension of consciousness. It has
driven her out of her peripheral ego into a state of vacuity.
If as she says, the substance of her spirit has been ruined,
what remains? Only the most essential, which she was look
ing for from the beginning: She laid hold on her own good,
which is God, and nothing less. These daring sayings can
not be dismissed as being only verbal exaggerations. They
have the flavour of lived experience, of authenticity. They
are neither the fruits of beliefs or intellectual knowledge nor
of affective excesses, but of events intuitively experienced.
Henceforth only through paradoxical terms can she speak of
her approach to the Divine Mystery. She confesses her inabil
ity to find adequate terms to speak of her experience in the
depths of her being no words exist to express these things
so far as I know (L.17). He who wishes to speak about these
things must speak with his soul. (L.28), and she describes
her experience of inner bareness (PS.38):
To be reduced to nothingness in Love31
Is the most desirable thing I know.. .
Fighting Love with longing,
Wholly without heart and without mind.
In such a state of bareness, in which there is no more heart
nor mind, how is it possible to express any longing? These
verses prove that every attempt to express her experience has
30This daring speculative saying finds its echo in Ruusbroecs last
chapter of The Spiritual Espousals, (Trans. A. Wiseman, New York,
Paulist, 1985) aHere there is a blissful crossing over and a self-
transcending immersion into a state of essential bareness... where all
the divine names and modes pass away into simple ineffability, . . . 152.
31 What is reduced to nothingness1is the egoistic being.
280 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
failed. Her only choice is to take refuge in the ineffable, there
where laisser-faire7 and non-action is the only norm. uThe
soul Kas to remain in a blissful silence (L.28). I must then
live out what I am. (PS.22)32 Hadewijch does not mean here
any kind of vanishing of consciousness7, on the contrary she
hints at an awakening which rises up out of the deep engulf-
ment she has undergone. It is then that Nothingness explodes
into Fullness, fullness of the experience of the Omnipresence
of the Deity Who is Love (L.17). She makes a last attempt
at speaking with her soul in L.28 in which we read:
The soul sees how God is in his eternity. Gb'd
through his own Divinity. In all this, it contem
plates God in his Godhead, and in each of (its)
This difficult epistle ends with a no less difficult paragraph
in which she relates anew her own experience:
Thus spoke a soul in the liberty of God: I have
understood all diversity in the pure Unity. . . I
remained there standing above all things and I
looked out above all things into the glory without
In a text which is regarded as being a sermon but filed as
L.22 we read:
Those who follow this inner path penetrate within
God from depth to depth. They walk outside all
the ways open to the human mind.
32Porion suggests that this thought is based on St Bernards Sermon
on the Canticle LXXXIII: naturae ingenuitatem servare.
33In this Hadewijch took inspiration from William of St Thierry who
in The Golden Epistle affirms. . . man becomes non Deus, sed tamen
quod est Deus: homo et gratia quod Deus et natura. p. 263 (SC 223:
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp
We will never be able to know exactly what Hadewijch meant
by walking outside the way of representation. Could she have
wanted to suggest through this ultimate metaphor the most
inner secret of the One which only the high fruition of Love
can penetrate34? Or is this state the state of "enstasis as
Mircea Eliade calls it, in which the ego explodes and the
relational becomes changed over into the Transpersonal? By
way of explanation, one can consider the question she asked
in L.30 (which again is reminiscent of 1 Cor 5.28):
What happens to those who have fully grown up
and answered the fearful demand of the Unity (of
the Godhead) when they make their ascent with
out returning.. . there, where the brilliant light
ning flashes and the loud thunder resounds?
Listen to the answer which follows:
Then the soul is brought t o union out of the mul
tiplicity of gifts, it becomes all that, that is (the
Godhead).. .united to the Unity of the Godhead.
This is an answer which is most paradoxical, for how can
anything be united to Unicity? This is pure Exemplarism. It
describesvthe ineffable return of the soul to her original being
in the Godhead.
In less philosophical terms, Hadewijch exhorts her spir
itual daughter to whom she addresses L.18 to come to full
inner growth in these simple and beautiful terms, making
use of the inner power of sight of her soul.
This power of sight has two eyes, love and reason.
Reason advances toward what God is, by means
34 In his Comment ary on the Song of Songs, William of St Thierry
says: love is knowledge: quoniam in hac re amor ipse intellectus est
ECC.57 (SC 82: 152).
282 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
of what God is not. Love sets aside what God is
not and rejoices that it fails in what God is.
This sentence shows clearly that for Hadewijch, love has the
last word. Love is knowledge.35
Hadewijch II: Her Specific Contribution
Unfortunately only thirteen poems from this unidentified
Bguine have been preserved. They are contained in three
of the four manuscripts (the fourth manuscript dates from
the sixteenth century) of Hadewijch of Antwerps works, they
are filed as Poems in Couplets ( Mengeldichten) 17 through
29.36 Both Hadewijch of Antwerp and Hadewijch II belong
to the same milieu and spiritual lineage; both are witnesses
of mysticism of Being in Middle Dutch before Ruusbroec: it
should be reiterated that both had a considerable influence
on later mystical theology. Ruusbroec quotes both Hadewi-
jchs without making any difference between them. He simply
appropriates many of their texts, developing their themes in
a more systematic way.37
35 It is of interest to compare this text with a sixth-century one from
Damasdus, last of the Platonists, who spoke of a certain unified knowl
edge capable of approaching the ineffable One. . . as long as knowledge
is near the One, it draws some knowledge of It, thereafter closing the
eyes, knowledge becomes union instead of knowledge. (Des premiers
principes), quoted in Georges Vallin, Lumire du non-dualisme, Nancy,
Press Universitaires, 1987, 93.
38These poems, say s Dom Porion, are one of the purest expressions
of the spirituality current of which Master Eckhart together with Ruus
broec is the best known representative but not the initiator. Hadewijch
d'Anvers, Ecrits mystiques des Bguines, 45.
37We can only mention the theme, for it needs treatment itself. Often
it is to these Bguines that we must turn to find the origin of expressions
in the works of Eckhart and Ruusbroec that had been thought to be
without precedent until the writings of these spiritual mistresses were
rediscovered or brought* to light again. E. Zum Brunn, XXXI.
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 283
The so-called Hadewijch IIs style is more metaphysical,
her vocabulary is nearer to that of the Rhineland mystics
than that of Hadewijch of Antwerp and is therefore dated a
short span of time later, apparently nearer the time of Meister
Eckhart. Like her elder sister, Hadewijch II is not a theoreti
cian of mysticism and her poems are the reflection of her own
inner experience; they are Lived theology.38 The first two of
her thirteen poems, Poems in Couplets 17 and 18, are a kind
of digest of her spiritual itinerary.
Right at the beginning she warns those who want to follow
her on her spiritual path that they will have to tread a solitary
way, that is:
. . .To follow along a dark, unlaid and unmarked
path, an altogether inner path.
This is a path on which:
. . . What we apprehend in high contemplation
through naked understanding is certainly great,
and yet compared to what escapes our grasp it
becomes nothing.
With more precision she adds:
Forward into this non-perceived depth, in this ne
science must our desire strive.39
38Since mother Columba Hart did not include the poems of Hadewijch
II in her Hadewijch Complete Works, the following analysis contains
a first attempt at English translations of certain passages. After the
completion of this article, Poems 17, 19 and 26 were published in Women
Mystics in Medieval Europe, 132-39.
39As E. Zum Brunn writes, In Dutch this ever-unattainable Tran
scendance is called ontbliven and means literally what remains above
our reach. . . Dom Porion has stressed the importance of this theme as
a pre-Eckhartian testimony in Bguine mysticism, XXXIII.
284 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
The word desire is very pale compared to its Dutch equiv
alent, Minne, which signifies a fiery will to dive into pre
cisely that which escapes our faculties, that is this deficiency
( ontbliven). Desire then, needs qualification to suggest the
strength of ardor, the fire of the high-mettled yearning which
prompts her.
The Middle Dutch word, ontbliven, meaning deficiency,
is in fact the central point of her thought and experience.
She feels herself violently attracted by this beyond under
standing. Pursuing inexorably her quest, she plunges into the
Those whose desire penetrates deeper into the
sublime, silent knowledge of pure love meet with
an ever greater deficiency, their understanding
finds a modeless renewal in the unclouded dark
ness, in the presence of absence.
To be able to perceive the divine presence without any mode
( sonder wise) means that she has grown aware of a new inner
depth dimension in which Gods personal absence is per
ceived as being his essential Presence.
Consistent with herself our Bguine does not hesitate in
front of the abyss of the Unknown. On the contrary, she de
clares herself ready to risk her all (PC.18):
The soul must be uprooted from herself by Love
and hurled into the unfathomable abyss on
There the soul abides in pure silence in her inner
most recess.
The soul must penetrate into the bareness of the
One beyond reason,
Where return is impossible, where there is no light
to help her . . .
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 285
Where neither higher knowledge nor deep intu
ition can cast anchor . . .
There, something noble, neither this nor that,
guides the soul into and absorbs her in her
Origin. (PC.18)
Thus we see that the driving power which makes her fall into
this abyss is Love ( Minne). It is also Love which has, from
the very first step on the contemplative path, monopolized all
her energies and sustained her all the way through the wild
In poem 17, Hadewijch II has a few couplets which speak
for themselves. Any commentary would take the bloom from
their beauty:
Understanding becomes isolated, within the
shoreless eternity.. . and with quiet desire devote
itself to a complete immersion in boundless total
ity, there something quite simple yet undisclos-
able is revealed the Unalloyed, pure Void (een
bloet niet.)
The strong hold fast in that naked Void rich in
their intuition yet faltering before the unknow
able depths.
To those inattainabje depths they attribute
a supreme value, in them they find their highest
I tell you, none can speak about it, save to say
that he who desires inner understanding, and not
just knowledge, must rid himself of reasons tur
moil, of all forms and images.
Those who do not divert themselves with other
activities from those described here will find again
unity in their first Beginnings in their Princi
ple. . . .
286 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
In the intimacy of the One these souls are inte
riorly pure and naked, without forms or images
as though they were liberated from time, never
created,40 freed from their outward limits in silent
Here I stop. I find neither end nor beginning nor
any comparison which could justify the use of
The only thing to add after the full stop of Hadewijch is that,
for her, God is not objectifiable and the Void is not empty!
In her other poems Hadewijch II tries to precise the inner
transmutation she had to undergo in her depths once her soul
had been established in this nakedness, in this passing away
( overliden):
It is Love who teaches the soul this inmost trans
formation into Unity. (PC.22)
It is the Unity of naked Truth which adapts the
soul to the onefold nature of Eternity, of eternal
Essence. (PC.29)
Another topic sung again and again by Hadewijch II is that
of the immediacy of the divine presence in the soul in naked
clarity and inner freedom, as it is for example in Poem 23:
(In contemplation) the soul dwells with you God,
free and alone in Unity.
She loses all images, forms and distinctions, when
you nourish her with your wisdom and grant
her knowledge of your fullness, which she can
not understand.41
40They have retraced their steps to what they are from all eternity in
41This is a state of the soul which Ruusbroec will call unknown knowl
edge in The Sparkling Stone.
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 287
. .and which scholarly knowledge can never pen
This shows clearly that Hadewijch IIs experience lies beyond
all distinctions, all opposites; it may be called a non-dual ex
perience of God. She meets God without intermediary (son
der middle). She has discovered the point of her rootedness
in God, in the divine, in Truth.
The pure spark,
life of the life of our soul
which remains without end
united to the divine Source. (PC.27)
In Poem 24, the same exemplarist intuition serves as can
vas to express this subtle knowledge that the Holy Spirit re
veals in the twinkling of an eye:
Omnipotence attracts the soul,
Logos instructs her, Love leads her,
thus the Three sweep her off into the Unity,
where the saints find blessings and fullness
in their first Principle,
the pure deity. ( Gotheit)
She then concludes with those daring verses:
In the Godhead,
no semblance of persons:
the Three in One
are pure Nakedness. (PC.20)42
Finally from the summit or depths of her spiritual pil
grimage, our Bguine develops her thoughts about the life
of the poor in spirit here on earth.43 In Poem 26 she says:
42Ruusbroec will amplify this saying in The Seven Rungs in the Lad
der of Spirit ual Love. There, where the divine Persons pass away in
the Unity of their common Essence, in this groundless abyss of pure
Beatitude there is no more Father, nor Son, nor Holy Spirit, Ch. 14.
43Cp. Eckharts sermon, Beati pauperes spiritu.
288 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
It is not everything to withdraw from the world,
to go begging ones bread and all:
the poor in spirit must remain without thoughts
in the vast simplicity (of being)
which has neither end nor beginning, nor form,
nor mode,
nor reason, nor senses, nor opinion, nor thought,
nor purpose, nor science: unencompassed, unlim
In this wild and solitary simplicity
the poor in spirit live in unity:
there they find nothing but silence
ever responding to Eternitys call.44
In reality this silence, this Void in which she has been ab
sorbed is not a Void in the negative sense of the word, on
the contrary, it is the undifferentiated plenitude of the divine
Essence, in her own words: Unity and Trinity are one and
single Omnipotence. (PC.22)
We end this chapter with the last words of her last poem
Those who never understood the Scriptures
cannot use reason to explain
what I have found in my inner being,
without any intermediary, without a veil,
beyond words.
Her explicit reference to the Scripture shows that Hadewijch
II considered herself as being in conformity with Catholic
orthodoxy. In his introduction to her Poems, Dom Porion
4i Ruusbroec uses the same words in A Mi rror of Eternal Blessedness:
He empties us of all i mages. . . There we find nothing other than a
wild desert of imageless bareness, which always responds to the call of
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 289
underlines that as far as he knows, no theologian ever did
suspect of heresy the boldness of her style.
An Attempt at Interpretation
There is scarcely any reason to comment on the significance of
the astonishing statements of our Bguines. They do speak
clearly for themselves. Their paradoxical terms, says Dom
Porion are transparent enigmas! Nevertheless, we think it
is expedient to add a few remarks, for the domain of mys
ticism of Being in the thirteenth century among women has
been much too little studied so far. Chronologically speaking,
the two Hadewijchs belong to the thirteenth century, but in
reality they belong to a certain spiritual family which has
no historical boundaries, which is trans-historical and trans-
It seems necessary to emphasize the ease with which the
Bguines, whenever they gathered and in spite of those trou
bled times, were able to find a kindly ear among clergy and
monks, who indeed even encouraged them, taking on the
function of chaplains. This was especially so in Brabant where
they enjoyed, right from the beginning, close relations with
the Cistercian monks at Villers relations which were at
once on individual and collective basis. Unfortunately, ser
mons given by the abbots or monks have not been pre
served. It is only in hagiographical writings that we can get a
glimpse of the different themes developed between monks and
Bguines. It is known that some monks visited their spiritual
daughters in the world, that others had a spiritual sister.
Many a time we have evidence of monks seeking spiritual
advices by the mulieres religiosae, recluses and Bguines.
The interaction between Cistercian and Bguines
was about equal.. . however vast and complex
these spiritual currents were in Belgium, the cen
tre always remained t lie piety of the Bguines.
Similarities with Bernardine piety are often less
borrowings than points of contact in the emer
gence of the extraregnlar.45
If the Hadewijchs based their writings on Scripture and the
authority of theological tradition, these writings contain no
trace of reference to learning from a contemporary spiritual
director. They contain only the reflection of the Bguines
personal experience. Moreover, neither Hadewijchs relates the
experience of the highest states of consciousness to a life
post-mortem. They insinuate that the highest states can be
attained here on earth.46 The freedom they demonstrate in
their choice of theological terms is partly due to the fact
that at the time when they were writing, Thomas Aquinas
had not yet finished his Summa. This implies that they had
not to conform to dialectical rules of Scholastics and could
use freely a polyvalent vocabulary without having to make
sharp distinction between the ontological and the intentional
The ultimate aim of each Hadewijchs pilgrimage is in
no way different, nor do their starting points on their path
or their ways of getting there differ: for both the Minne
thrusts the soul into another metaphysical dimension: the
abyss from On High (Hadewijch II), the bottomless abyss
(Hadewijch of Antwerp). For both, it is precisely this leap into
the Unknown that effects the existential opening to Transcen
dence which reveals itself as being the other face of Imma
It seems evident that both Bguines reached an extraordi
nary level of interior life. In a way they solved the squaring of
the spiritual circle by an existential experience in the depths
45McDonnell, Citeaux and Bguine Spirit uali ty, Ch. III. 320.
46Hadewijch of Antwerp: Those who strive to content Love begin
here on earth that eternal life (L.12). Hadewijch II: He who has been
transformed. . . c as t s anchor in the beautiful Deity.
290 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Baumer-Despeigne: Hadewijch of Antwerp 291
of their being simultaneously through personal union with
the beloved Lord and transpersonal identification in inner
vacuity to the undifferentiated, ultimate Reality.47 In other
words, they experienced the constitutive spiritual dimen
sion of the human being, as Hadewijch of Antwerp wished:
to understand the deepest essence of the soul.
Soul is a way for the passage of God from his
depths into his liberty; and God is a way for the
passage of the soul into its liberty that is into his
inmost depths, which cannot be touched except
by the souls abyss. (L.18)
Finally it is important to recall that both, so to say, at the end
of their itinerary, land in the pure Deity, beyond the Three
Persons, for it is precisely here that we see the essential conti
nuity between the two Beguines. Hadewijch of Antwerp spoke
of those who stay below the Unity of the Godhead, and
Hadewijch II said the Three in One are pure Nakedness.
Seven hundred years have passed, but the Hadewijchs
have not lost anything of their actuality. One cannot but be
fascinated by the personality of these women who, with no
trace of inferiority complex, fearlessly and with great serenity
follow their bold path, heartened by both creative genius and
an independent spirit which they wisely displayed in an ec-
clesial framework. Thanks to them we rediscover today that
dimension of deep inferiority in the Christian tradition which
unfortunately has been either eclipsed or misunderstood for
whole centuries.
47 As G. Epinay-Burgard has so concisely written: Hadewijchs life re
flects the fundamental experience of participation in the intra-Trinitarian
mysteries. With their paradoxes Letters 17 and 18 show, at the same
time, the consequences of union with the lYinity and the necessity of an
overpassing into Unity. 110.
The Experience of Julian of Norwich
C. Murray Rogers
It is all in a little thing, the size of a hazel nut. I hold it
in the palm of my hand. I look at it with the eye of my
understanding. What can it be?, I ask. From somewhere the
answer comes: It is all that is made. How small it is, I say
to myself, how easily it could disappear into nothingness, but
then I hear it said: It lasts, and ever shall last, because God
loves it; and in this way everything has its being by the love of
God. Yes, of this little thing there are three characteristics:
the first is that God made it, the second is that God loves
it, the third is that God keeps it. And then it dawns on me
that I cannot tell the reality of him who is my maker, love and
keeper, until I am one-ed to him, until I so adhere to him that
there is absolutely no created thing between my God and me
until I am made so fast to Him that nothing separates my
God and myself.1
The woman who experienced the heart of Reality in a
little thing, the size of a hazel nut, remains practically un
known, a fact that would certainly have pleased her. She lived
in the fourteenth century in the thriving commercial cen
tre and cathedral city of Norwich, in eastern England. Trau
matic happenings such as the Black Death (when more than
Paraphrase of ch. 5. of The Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
one-third of the population of England died), the Hundred
Years war with France, the Peasants Revolt (a revolt of the
poor and oppressed, brutally suppressed by both Church and
State), and the defeat, abdication and execution of kings of
England all happened in her day, while further afield in Eu
rope popes were competing for power, the Great Schism tore
the Catholic Church into three warring pieces an echo of
the corruption of the Church, among both clergy and bish
ops, as described in the writings and speeches of three con
temporaries, John Wycliffe, William Langland and, the most
famous, Geoffrey Chaucer.
We only know the date of Julians birth because the event
of her life, an event which consumed her energies of body,
mind and spirit for the rest of her long life, happened, she
tells us, when she was 30^ years old, on Sunday, May 8th,
1373. In less than one week she experienced the sixteen rev
elations which were to be her sustenance for twenty years
before she either committed them to writing herself or had
them written down. That writing, The Revelations of Divine
Love, the sharing of her spiritual experience, proved to be
the first book written by a woman in the English language,
a book which was largely ignored for 600 years, but has now,
in the last fifty years, been re-discovered by many, including
Thomas Merton, to be among the greatest of Christian mys
tical writings and its author to be with John Newman the
greatest English theologian.
We know nothing of her family or of the circumstances of
her life; we do not know what led to her vocation to the life
of an anchoress, a solitary, nor whether that decision came
before or after the revelations which became the centre of her
existence. We do know that her special calling was to contem
plative silence, to solitude, and to recitation of the psalms and
prayers of the church, in her anchorhold, a tiny house fixed
to the outside wall of a church in Norwich. In this setting her
Rogers: Julian of Norwich
long life pursued its course subsequent to her overwhelming
experience of the Love of God. Her silence, however, did not
prohibit her from being available to give comfort and advice
to those who wished to come to her day by day. Her one
room had two windows, one into the church where she could
see the altar and could take part in the Eucharist, the central
sacrament of Christian life, while through the other window
which faced the busy street those in need could call to her
and ask for the strength of her advice and prayers. Seated
there between those two widows, she never ceased to dive
deeper into the abyss of love which had opened up before her
on that May day of 1373.
It was some years earlier, in the middle of that century,
that a young woman week by week, even day by day, had
stood at her devotions before the frescoes in certain of the
churches of Norwich, frescoes in which the death of Christ on
the Cross was depicted, not simply as physical suffering (as
was common elsewhere in Europe) but as glorious triumph,
with colours to match the glory. (These have in recent years
been discovered and are in the cathedral of Norwich, reveal
ing what Julian surely saw 600 years ago). It may well have
been those times spent before the cross that led Julian to
three longings, expressed in prayer, which she later saw as
preparatory for the extraordinary revelations given to her in
Julian requested, firstly, that she be allowed to enter into
the mind of the passion, that the awareness of the suffer
ings of her Son which Mary, the Mother of Christ, had in
its fullness, might be given to her also. In her own words: I
made this first petition so that after I would have a more true
consciousness of the Passion of Christ. (ch. 2). The second
request sprang from the first, and was a desire to participate
in the suffering as far as is possible, even to the point of dying.
She wished, as Gods gift, for an illness whifch would bring her
296 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
to the moment of dying when she herself and those around
her would believe that her last hour had come, so that both
the mercy of God and the terror of death might be hers, that
eventually this experience of death might lead to a fuller liv
ing for the glory of God. She prayed that this might happen
before she reached the age of thirty. She realised that these
two prayers, for a deeper sharing in the Passion of Christ and
for sickness to death, were uncommon prayers, so she added
the condition: Lord, you know what I want. If it is your will
for me to have it, let me have it. If it is not your will, good
Lord, do not be displeased, for I only want what you will.
The third gift which this young girl prayed for, a gift
which sprang from a great longing, was for three wounds
while she was still alive on this earth, the wound of true con
trition, the wound of natural compassion and the wound of a
full-hearted longing for God. She prayed this third prayer un
conditionally, with the whole of herself. Then she adds, with
her typical straight-forwardness, that she forgot all about the
first two requests, while the third was always coming back to
mind. Could it be that the forgetting of her first and sec
ond requests was a necessary pre-condition for their being
Years later how many, who knows? illness struck.
Julian in one week of high fever became desperately ill. The
earlier request to become mortally ill had sunk so far into
her unconscious that she found the illness most unwelcome
and the thought of dying altogether distasteful, not because
she was fearful but because she wanted to love God better
and for a longer time before she tasted more fully the bliss of
heaven. Nevertheless she was sinking.. . On the fourth night
the family sent for the parish priest to anoint her with oil. For
three more days and nights she lingered and then it became
clear that she could not live until morning. Once more the
priest came; he administered the last rites, her eyes became
Rogers: Julian of Norwich
fixed, she grew delirious and her senses began to fade. The
image of Christ on the cross was brought right up to her
almost unseeing eyes; she had spoken her last, everything
grew dark and a shortness of breath indicated the end.
Then it all began! Things previously known to her intel
lectually as a Christian became vividly real; they were totally
present; the Lord was present, dying, living, speaking, loving.
The past became the present: the relationship immediate.
Certain onlookers, Julians mother, her parish priest, a few
friends, were present, at least at the beginning of the thirty
hours or so of the visions, but she alone saw and heard
and at more than one point exclaimed (in ungrammatical
Church-Latin): Benedicite, domine! Benedicite, domine!
Bless, 0 Lord! Bless, 0 Lord! even, on one occasion (ch.13)
Laughing loud and long. . . for I understood that we may
laugh, comforting ourselves and rejoicing in God that the
devil has been overcome.
Some long time after her full recovery, Julian was to
record the Revelations as she had received them. She her
self divided them into sixteen distinct showings. Some she
could see with her own eyes (she called them corporeal);
others were strong impressions on her mind, while the third
type of teachings she called spiritual, in which she knew she
was being taught but experienced no actual hearing.
These showings or revelations are not shared with us in
an orderly or systematic way. She was a theologian in the
sense of the fourth century Desert Father who said: He who
really prays is a theologian and he who is a theologian really
prays! They came to her in that short period of days and
it was in silence and prayer that she spent the next forty
or fifty years, assimilating them. Many were surprises to her,
others she puzzled over for years, asking questions and finding
deeper levels of meaning as she lived with them. Indeed her
work of feeding on this living Truth was never completed;
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
in the very last chapter, 86, she says: this book has been
begun by Gods gift and his grace, but it has not yet been
completed, as I see it. The same is true of more than the
book; indeed we have a taste, a strong taste of fullness here,
but there is always more without end with which two
words Julian concludes her account.
It is for this reason that every reader, every listener, to
Julians book, has his or her part to perform in the complet
ing of the book, in the giving of an active response. There is
in the whole both a hub a central truth and the spokes,
the unfolding of the truth in that same silence and 'prayer.
Fifteen and more years was not a long enough time for Ju
lian to reach the bottom of the abyss, for there was always
more. From the time of the showing (she wrote), I desired
frequently to understand what our Lords meaning was, and
more than fifteen years afterward I was answered by a spir
itual understanding that said, Do you want to understand
your Lords meaning in this experience? Understand it well:
love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did
he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold your
self in this truth and you shall understand and know more
in the same vein. And you will never know or understand
anything else in it forever. (ch. 86)
Having turned to the end for a clue to enlighten the whole,
we turn with Julian to the first experience that came to her
at the point of her own near-dying and returning to life. This
was the seeing of the crucifixion of Jesus, being present again
at the dying of the Lord Jesus, finding the blessed Lady
Mary (the Mother of Jesus) present also, and being vividly
aware of his great suffering and bloodshed, the discolouration
of his face and the drying up of his flesh. Being aware of
the agony of the passion of her Master, Julian became also,
strangely, a sharer again and again in Joy. She inwardly knew
that when Jesus appeared to her, the Blessed Trinity (whom
Rogers: Julian of Norwich 299
she knew in Christian teaching from earliest childhood) was
meant. In this same showing (of the crucifixion), suddenly
the Trinity completely filled my heart with the greatest joy.
And so, understood it, will it be in heaven, without an end,
for those who come there The Trinity is our everlasting
lover. The Trinity is our endless joy and our bliss, through
our Lord Jesus Christ and in our Lord Jesus Christ. (ch. 4)
The suffering and joy of Lady Mary were inseparable and so
it was and would be for Julian and for all who would discover
the secret of Love. It was for Love that Jesus Christ suffered,
the Love that He has for each person. Only when with Mary
we recognise our nothingness, may we love and have the
uncreated God, (ch.5) Only there/here in Him do we find
our being in God, almighty, all-wise, all good, and this is
discovered when a simple soul comes to Him nakedly, plainly
and unpretentiously, for he is the natural dwelling of the soul
touched by the holy Spirit. (ch. 5) We can understand why
Julian found herself praying: God, of your goodness, give
me yourself, for you are enough for me. I can ask nothing less
that is completely to your honour, and if I do ask anything
less, I shall always be in want. Only in you I have all. (ch.5)
This life in God is our natural will and it is the good
will of God to have us. Until we have Him in the fullness of
joy we fail to know who we are, for our soul is so specially
loved by him who is the highest that it goes far beyond the
ability of any creature to realize it.
It is as she ponders this immeasurable love and her own
littleness and poverty (greater even than Marys) that she
is overwhelmed with the courtesy and great unassuming
friendliness of her God and Lord. He who is highest, might
iest, noblest and worthiest, becomes lowest and meekest,
friendliest and most courteous and she adds.. . This mar
vellous joy shall be shown us all when we see him. Julians
humble God was shown to her and it is in His humility,
300 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
His homeliness and courtesy that He relates to us in this life.
No wonder that the crucifixion, so vivid and lifelike, hideous
and dreadful, was also sweet and lovely, a revelation of
the compassionate courtesy with which God unceasing ap
proaches His creation. She marvelled that this could be so
and that she might be intimately related to such a God. Imag
ine Julians astonishment when she saw the Lord royally
reigning in heaven, filling it with joy and mirth. She contin
ues: He himself endlessly gladdened And solaced his valued
friends most modestly and courteously with the marvellous
melody of endless love in his own fair, blessed face.'This glo
rious countenance of the godhead completely fills all heaven
with joy and bliss. The awareness that God thanks every
man and woman for their years of service especially for the
years of those who deliberately and freely offer their youth
to God leaves her speechless. And she adds: the more the
loving soul sees this courtesy of God the more anxious it is
to serve him all its life. (ch. 14)
This sharing in the divine laughter, God wanting our
souls to be merrily (cheerfully) occupied with his grace,
brings her to see that in us he delights without end, and in
the same way we shall delight in him, with his grace.
But we would be very wrong if we imagined that Julian, in
her awareness of the all-embracing love of God and of the joy
that is its concomitant, was less than realistic in face of sin
and evil. Both the vision of Christs death and of his struggles
with Evil, not to mention the cries of suffering and fear and
brutality of her fourteenth century which were brought to her
at the second of her windows, removed every temptation to
minimise sin. The horror of evil is present and she is well
aware that this pervades the world in which then also
the poor and the oppressed were the ones to feel most
crushingly its weight.
In face of this evil Julian knew for she had seen it with
Rogers; Julian of Norwich
her own eyes that there can be no wrath in God. True,
in the Old Testament of the Christian Scriptures, she read of
His wrath and anger as of a wrathful judge, against evil and
the evil-doer. This wrath always implies blame, the blaming
of others as of ourselves, which too speedily we attribute to
God. Her experience of Gods love in the Showings made her
know that God never blames, that His goodness and love out
weigh by far the awful evidence of the worlds evil and the
damnation thereafter which she was taught by the Church to
be the destination of those refusing salvation. Julian longed
to resolve this intolerable paradox, this impossible contra
diction, and she learnt to do so (as Merton tells us) not by
solving the contradiction but by remaining in the midst of
it, in peace knowing that in God in the final analysis,
beyond our human comprehension it is already solved.
Of the many places where this struggle continues in her,
and between her and her Master (for she wrestles also with
him in these matters which are beyond her),2 she sees, as from
the other side, what evil means. In one place she writes:
Our failing is full of dread, our falling is full of shame, and
our dying is full of sorrow. But still, in all this, the sweet eye of
pity and love never departs from us, and the working of mercy
does not cease.. . Grace brings about raising and rewarding,
endlessly-jsurpassing what our loving and our bitter labour
deserve, as it spreads abroad and shows.the noble, abundant
largesse of Gods royal lordship in his marvellous courtesy.
This comes from the abundance of love. A little later she
writes: I saw no kind of wrath in God, neither for the short
term nor for the long, for truly, as I saw it, if God could be
angry even a touch, we should never have life, nor place, nor
being, God cannot forgive because He already has!
However cruel and crazy the world might be hers and
ours and however beyond her it was to understand with her
2Chapters 48 and 49.
302 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
mind the teaching of the Church as regards hell and damna
tion, the words perhaps the most famous of the whole
Showings rang again and again in her, words spoken by
her good Lord who said: All shall be wel l You your
self shall see that all manner of things shall be well. And yet
later, when she considered those millions who die outside the
faith of holy Church and those who are baptized Christians
and yet live unchristian lives and so die outside of charity,
she confesses it seemed to me impossible that all manner of
things should be well, as our Lord had showed me. And the
answer came: What is impossible to you is not Impossible
to me. I shall have my word in all things,and I shall make all
things well.
Those insistent questions of hers could only find fuller
answer when in a spiritual teaching she learnt of the Lords
secret purposes. It belongs, she heard to royal lordship
of God that he has his secret purposes in peace; to us His
servants belong obedience and reverence, not full knowledge
of His purposes. The great secret, hidden in God, by which
it will be seen how all things shall be well, is only known to
Christ and to the Father; it is, Julian saw, forever necessary
for us to stop ourselves from speculating on what the great
and secret deed shall be. By willing nothing but what God
wills for us our way of faith is clear, for, the more we busy
ourselves to know his (Gods) secrets, in that or anything else,
the further away we shall be from knowing them. Enough
for her that the great deed, which will be known only when
it is done, is safe in the loving will of God.
With that as background and foreground the total and
all-embracing love of God how could Julian be anything
but an optimist, full of invincible hope? She was clearly a
theological optimist, diametrically opposed to the sin-centred
pessimism of popular theology amidst the devastating col
lapse of cultural and spiritual values of her century. Perhaps
Rogers: Julian of Norwich
at first reading her account of the Showings of Love which
makes no reference to current affairs, nor to the human suf
ferings taking place around her, may seem a spiritual vision
unrelated to the pains and agonies of humanity. It was, I
believe, her optimism, founded on deep faith and absolute
conviction, that constrained her to see every historical hap
pening, however brutal and tragic, as contained in Gods over
riding purpose of love. What ground could there be for worry
and despair when our heavenly Mother Jesus can never al
low us who are his children to perish.(ch. 61) At another
time Julian says: I saw with full certainty that God never
changes his purpose in the slightest degree, and never shall
forever. (ch. 11) Her unshakable optimism was able to tran
scend the twistedness of the world and of human actions and
decisions, for this word rang in her: See! I am God. See! I am
in all things. See! I do all things. See! I never take my hands
off my works, and never shall forever. See! I lead all things to
the end I ordained for them from eternity, by the same might,
wisdom and love by which I made them. How should anything
be amiss? (ch. 11) Those six words, I shall make all things
well were to cover every eventuality; they will be shown to
be conclusive when the deed, the secret deed unknown to
all creatures, is performed at the end of time, when shall
the same-'blessed Trinity make well all that is not well. (ch.
32) Can one need more assurance than this?, asks Julian of
herself and of her readers.
The wonder of God, so near and real, brings Julian3 to the
insight: Our Mother Jesus, H e . . . This was no grammati
cal error for she saw that as truly as God is our Father,
so truly is God our Mother. Maybe she knew that she was
standing in a long succession of Christian mystics and theolo
gians, such as Anselm, Aquinas, Bernard of Cluny, Mechtild
of Magdeburg and a number of others for whom this was
3Ch. 59, 60, 61.
304 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
no new idea, but she makes no attempt to bolster her own
witness by their names. Nor is she in any sense a feminist,
many of whom today spring to use her words to support
their own stance. Her mystical knowledge that sees God to
be Mother springs direct from her awareness of Gods love
given to each of His creatures. Our substance is in our Fa
ther, God Almighty. Our substance is in our Mother, God
All-wisdom. And our substance is in our Lord God the Holy
Spirit, All-goodness. For our substance is whole in each per
son of the Trinity, which is one God. Our sensuality is only in
the Second Person, Christ Jesus.. . (ch. 58) Far from Christ
being like our mother, he is the prototype of all mother
hood and human motherhood is a reflection of his, though
it is true that our bodily bringing forth is very little, low and
simple compared to our spiritual bringing forth, yet it is he
(Christ) who does the mothering in the creatures by whom
it is done. He it is who borns us! At every stage, birth,
infancy, youth and age it is he, our natural mother, our gra
cious mother, who himself most humbly and most mildly
was born from Marys womb and who in turn gives birth to
us. And this is the truth underlying the motherhood of all
things. There can be no doubt that Julian would find equality
between the sexes a matter with which we modern people
in the west are so concerned to be a. corollary of the fact
that both feminine and masculine are divine; there can be
nothing and no one who stands apart from the fatherhood
and motherhood of God. A true loving of God is the result of
the blessed love Christ works in us. It is our Mother Christ
who says: If I could suffer more (for love of all), I would
suffer more.. .1 am what you love. How, asks Julian, rhetor
ically, for she knows the answer, can our heavenly mother,
Jesus, allow any of us his children to perish?
Where is one to find the solution, Julian asked herself,
to the appalling dilemmas of her day, to the suffering and
Rogers: Julian of Norwich 305
blatant evil, to the unrestrained love of self and of power,
wellnigh as present in the life of the Church as in the life
of society, in her century as in ours? Does the sociologist or
the psychologist, or the philosopher or the technocrat or the
politician or the theologian hold that answer? For this woman
of Norwich there is only one place, only one way out, in which
all ways are related, that is, in a mystical solution.
We may indeed find her mystical experience extraordi
nary. It was certainly a great marvel for her that Gods un
conditional love, a love utterly unqualified in its generosity,
should be offered to her, a simple, unlettered, uneducated
woman, and it was precisely her ordinariness which made her
certain that this transcendent love of God was for everyone,
everywhere. The extraordinary nature of this mystical expe
rience was for the most ordinary of human beings, for it was
for her, in no sense an lite specialist in spiritual matters. She
would struggle for years to write an account of this experi
ence that had come so miraculously to her, for how could she
keep the marvel of Gods all-embracing love to herself when
so obviously, so clearly, it was the truth of every man, woman
and child of the human race.
For her the daily life of each person was gifted with this
secret o? God; no high flights of strange heavenly powers, no
extravagances in behaviour, no trances and levitations, no
denial of human sense, no extreme asceticism, no spiritual
emotions or striking signs and manifestations. Simply and
marvellously the transformation of the daily reality of each
persons world, for each finds Augustine speaking for him
or herself: Thou hast made us for thyself, 0 God, and our
hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.
In Julians century and country there were only Catholic
believers; she knew (but hardly as a part of her lived expe
rience) that others existed elsewhere and that they too were
included in Christs word to her (already quoted): What is
306 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
impossible to you is not impossible to me. She knew, and
shared with others her conviction, both at the window on
to the road and in her sharing of her experience on paper,
that her experience of union with God was as much for her
neighbours in Norwich as for any who might chance upon her
book of the Showings of Divine Love. If someone should see
her as a mystic standing over against others, in a spiritually
superior position to others, she would at once give the reply:
receiving the showing doesnt make me good, unless I love
God better as a result (ch. 9), for in truth, it was not shown
me that God loved me any better than he loves the last soul
that is in grace.*How can there be anything to be proud of
when, in the light of Gods I made it, ll love i t , I keep it
(of the small hazelnut), it is all from His side?
This led to Julians emphasis on littleness, and nothing
ness. God is the natural dwelling of created beings and
we human beings can only awake to this fact when we come
nakedly, plainly and unpretentiously. This leads to that
increasingly single-minded desire and longing for God alone,
without which one cannot be opened by the Spirit to the
reality of the Great Lover of humankind and of all creation.
It was Julians experience that once these truths are re
alised, that only in you I have all, then prayer takes on a
new face. Becoming one with God, the awareness that one
is enclosed in God, far from being Gods gift to us after
death, is knowledge given in a life of prayer. She herself ex
perienced the simplification of her prayer (ch. 6), For as the
body is clad in the clothes, and the flesh in the skin, and the
bones in the flesh, and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul
and body, clad and enclosed in the goodness of God. Yes, and
more intimately than this, for all these may waste and wear
away, but the goodness of God is ever whole and closer to us
than any comparison can show. This awareness of being en
closed in Gods love is beyond description, beyond words, but
Rogers: Julian of Norwich 307
with His grace and His help we may stand in spirit gazing
with endless wonder at this lofty, unmeasurable love beyond
human scope that Almighty God has for us of his goodness.
And therefore we may ask our Love, with reverence, all that
we will.
The result of this mystical awareness with which ev
ery person is endowed by creation is, Julian tells us from her
own experience, a sense that one is becoming less in ones own
sight, a sense of reverent awe at the marvel of one who is en
closed in God, and a great sense of love toward ones fellows.
Outwardly Julian, in common with any hermit or solitary,
might appear to be endowed with personal, even individual
spiritual maturity and growth. In fact it was her awareness
of the Divine Mystery, the Holy Trinity, which imparted to
her a love His/Her Love which embraces all.
This mystical inter-relatedness, including all persons and
all matter (if such a dichotomy is allowed) has no boundaries.
What has been called cosmic allurement draws all that is
into the Circle of Love, the Divine Mystery, and the photo
graph taken from space by an astronaut, the Planet Home,
becomes as much the symbol of Julians vision of inner space
as of humanitys growing awareness of outer space. The uni
verse is one. What for years we have described as inner or
outer are but two facets of one whole; the new cosmic vision
confirms Julians intuition, the Showings of Love are yet to be
completed and will be without end. The lesson of love has
now a cosmic dimension which leads to ever greater depths
of silence and of worship of that permeating presence which
enfolds all and from which nobody and nothing is excluded.
When Joseph Campbell was asked his advice to a young
person setting out on his lifes journey, he replied: Follow
your bliss. Would Julian, standing at that window looking on
to the busy street of Norwich six centuries ago have answered
differently? In truth, there is only one journey and all shall
be well.
Those well acquainted with Julian of Norwich will recog
nise that this paper owes much to the following works:
Christ our Mother , by Brant Pelphrey (London, Darton,
Longman and Todd, 1989)
Julian Woman of our Day , edited by Robert Llewelyn (Lon
don, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1985)
A Lesson of Love , by John-Julian (New York, Walker and
Co., 1988) Mother Julians own book, Revelations of
Divine Love, translated by M.L. Maestro (Doubleday,
Image Books 1977).
308 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
George Gispert-Sauch
From September 27th 1990 to 31st July 1991, Jesuits the
world over celebrated the Ignatian year to mark the fifth
centenary of the birth of the founder, Inigo Ibanez de Loyola
Sanchez (better known as Ignatius of Loyola), the last of the
eleven legitimate children of a nobleman and feudal lord in
a remote valley of the Basque country in northern Spain. As
he has been an influential force not only in the Church but in
European culture in general and at the same time a mystic
of great depth, I thought an analysis of his type of mysticism
would be appropriate in this Seminar.
A contemporary of Guru Nanak, although 22 years ju
nior, Ignatius lived at a time of great social transformation
in the European culture (1491-1556), right in the middle of
the Renaissance signalling the birth of the modern Western
world. During his life-time Columbus discovered the Ameri
can continent for the European^, Vasco da Gama landed in
Kozhikode, the first colonial empires were shaped. Luther,
eight years older than Ignatius, protested against the power
of the Church, and the religious unity of the European world
was shattered even when the Muslim Empire had just been
terminated on the Iberian soil. (In fact, the grandfather of Ig
natius had fought one of the last battles against the Muslims
in South Spain.)
Ignatius came from the small nobility of the Basque coun
try, a part of the newly formed Spanish nation. His early ser
vice at the court of a subordinate lord led him to take part
310 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
in the war against the French forces battling on Spanish soil.
Then, in 1521, a canon ball seemed to shatter both his leg
and his ambitions for a future in the court. It happened just
one month after Martin Luther had defied Church and Em
pire in the Diet of Worms. The 30-year-old soldier managed
to pass successfully through the trial and still hoped to re
build a future. Convalescence from three operations was long
and painful. To while away the long hours, he asked for some
of the novels of the period, the stories of knights and their
exploits which Cervantes would ridicule a century later. None
were found in the austere ancestral home. But they^ did find
two books. (We must remember that it was barely 70 years
since printing had been invented in Europe.) One was the
Life of Christ by the fourteenth-century Carthusian Liidolf
of Saxonia, and the other the Golden Legend, a collection of
lives of saints, by the thirteenth-century Jacopode Varazze
(Voragine). These he read with avidity and interest: from the
Life of Christ he extracted passages and quotations, specially
the words of Jesus and his mother. The lives of saints set him
adreaming of exploits he could do like theirs.
It may be of interest to note in passing that through this
reading Ignatius came unknowingly inio contact with the In
dian tradition. The Golden Legend contained, among others,
the life of St Josaphat, celebrated on 27th of November in the
Latin and on 26th August in the Eastern churches. It has been
now satisfactorily proved that this is a Christianised version
of the conversion and renunciation of the Bodhisattva, pop
ular at the time in Europe, deriving from the Lalitavistara
through Syrian and Arabic Versions.
These readings started Ignatius on a journey of introspec
tion and a life adventure that eventually made a mystic out
of Inigo the solider. The steps of the journey make for a fasci
nating, if well-known, reading: a renunciation of the ancestral
home and of his status as a nobleman, changing his dress for
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola 311
that of a beggar and a pilgrim; several months of sddhand in
Manresa, discovering the mystery of the Divine and of him
self, partly with the help of the Church, partly with his own
spiritual experimentation; a pilgrimage to Holy Land (Pales
tine) to be at the place where he wanted to remain though
the political situation did not permit him to do so. This may
be the real turning point in Ignatiuss spiritual quest. Cir
cumstances did not permit him to follow the initial longing
after his conversion to physically imitate Jesus in Jesus own
country and according to his life-style. Now he will search for
a new form of spirituality: to help people of his own coun
try and culture in their spiritual quest. He has discovered his
vocation as a guru.
He returned to Spain and embarked at thirty into a be
lated period of studies in Spain and in Paris, a fellow student
first of little children and later of young men ten or fifteen
years younger than him. This stage resulted in the emergence
of a group of dedicated friends that would become the Society
of Jesus, sharing in Ignatius mystical outlook. The final stage
of the Journey brought Ignatius to Rome to place the group
at the disposal of the Pope, head of the Church, the commu
nity of faith. Ignatius will from now on direct the growing
group drawing much from his continued mystical experience,
until he was called to the Further Shore in 1556. The special
features of Ignatian mysticism would be kept alive in the spiri
tual practice and teaching of that Jesuit order (the Society
of Jesus) and through it in the Church at large and beyond.
The new mysticism of a Teilhard de Chardin, for instance,
cannot be understood if one does not take into consideration
his Jesuit roots. It was a mysticism of action.
Perhaps it is important to pause a moment and bring out
some of the theoretical presuppositions of this mysticism. It
312 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
is true that mysticism is not a theory, but a lived experience
and in a sense a way of life. But this does not deny that
every form of mysticism grows in a particular culture with
its frame of reference. It may or may not be in conflict with
the dominant culture, but it cannot escape its influence.
The first cultural and philosophical presupposition of Ig
natius is that being and action are correlative: agere sequitur
esse was a traditional philosophical axiom. The ultimate root
of action is not prakrti or the realm of the rajas. Action is
rather positively related to sat. It is therefore not necessary
that the mystic should renounce activity once the deeper
awareness of Being has been attained. In mystical life the
transparency of Being in our consciousness finds expression
in a more authentic activity. There had been indeed in the
Christian tradition a mysticism of withdrawal into a life of
nirvrtti: the Desert Fathers, the anachoretes, the monasteries
and other contemplative life styles. But this is one type of
mysticism. Ignatius follows a different path: the experience
of the divine creates an atmosphere or a level of awareness
wherein he searches for the will of God for his own life. Later
we shall point out that his mysticism includes also a further
The religious and theological world of Ignatius was differ
ent. Creation does not come from rajas or from prakrti, but
from the very heart of God, the ultimate Reality. Action does
not stand in opposition to sattva but as the very expression
of sat. The mystical life, the transparency of Being in our
consciousness, finds expression also in authentic activity.
Another presupposition of the mysticism of Ignatius is a
view of history as shot through with purpose, with a divine
will. The world is not destined to be sublated even when
it comes to an end, but to be resurrected, and history is not
unrelated to eschatology. The mystical experience for Ignatius
does not merely consist in the awareness of the divine at the
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola
heart of the universe in which he led his whole life, but rather
in finding the thrust, the direction of the divine purpose and
freely allowing himself to be taken into its movement. His
military background may lead him to use military metaphors.
But the more fundamental experience is the experience of
purpose in action.
A third presupposition of Ignatian mysticism, consequent
with what has been said, is that the Spirit, the Self, the Ul
timate Reality of the Universe, is active. Activity is not a
prerogative of matter: in fact Europeans tended then to see
matter as of itself passive. For Ignatius God in His/Her/Its
inner Self is active or better pure act, and this is what the
Trinity ultimately implies. God is also active in regard to the
world that emerges from the Sovereign free will, and to which
God is not a stranger.
Mysticism, therefore, in the Ignatian context cannot be
identified with pure contemplation, with non-active life, even
though some withdrawal from action has always been part
of the mystical tradition. Much less could we identify mysti
cism with the paranormal phenomena attributed or found in
mystics. Both the Indian and the Christian traditions are at
one in discounting or giving little importance to the various
siddhis said to be produced in the mystics by their intimate
contact with the divine: visions, miracles, raptures, seeing in
the distance, foretelling the future, acting on others, levita
tions, etc. Some of these may be phenomena consequent to
the mystical state, but they cannot be identified with it.
The Path
The mystical path of Ignatius is perhaps best articulated in
the little manual which he wrote, entitled The Spiritual Ex
ercises. The title itself may make little sense in a traditional
Indian context: exercises belong to the body, to matter, not
to the Spirit. The Spirit is characterised by quiet, by lumi
314 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
nosity . . . However, we are not strangers to the concept of
sddhands and this could be the best translation of the idea
of the spiritual exercises. They are a collection of reflections,
a practical advice to help the master to lead the sddhaka to
the goal which Ignatius would consider central to the mystical
Ignatius explains the purpose which he envisages in two
simple words: to order ones life. Human life is definitely not
what it should be. It is not only a question of suffering, nor
even merely of sin and passion. It is also a question of dis
orientation. Our life needs enlightenment and orientation: to
order. What will be the principle of order? Elsewhere in the
book Ignatius spells this out as to seek and find the will of
God in the disposition of ones lifel l ) . 1 The presupposition
here is clear: there is a will of God for each one, a direction
to be given to ones life, a superior plan not perceptible in
the course of ordinary daily consciousness, a plan which has
been disturbed by sin or other interferences, but which can
be found out with a spiritual method. One should note that
it is not a question of discovering ones future life or knowing
now what options we should take in the future. The exercises
aim at ensuring the right decision now, for the orientation I
need to give to my life today.
The method consists in negatively removing interferences,
evil influences, forces that prevent the needle of ones life from
pointing firmly and decisively to the North of God. Ignatius
is quite realistic in his language: to overcome oneself. The
Exercises mean to be engaged in a battle not so much against
external forces as against oneself obviously in the area
of what we in India call the ahamkdra; the superficial level
where so many of our decisions are taken and so much of our
lives lived. The idea is to stop us from taking decisions when,
1All numbers in brackets refer to that traditional sections of the book
The Spirit ual Exercises.
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola 315
in his language, we are determined (or influenced) by dis
orderly affections the rdga-dvesa of the Gt and other
spiritual literature of India. Ignatius speaks of removing all
disordered affections which in his language include all sin
ful decisions, even if only superficially sinful, or desires that
are not expressions of absolutely right intention, and also all
influences from wrong philosophies or cultural factors that
often form part of our unconsciously accepted environment
and could lead us astray from the right path. He finally tells
us that we will progress in the mystical life in the measure in
which we come out from the sphere of self-love, self-will and
self-interest again the word self expressing not the Indian
tman but the world of ahamkdra.
So far for the negative aspects of the sddhana. One might
think that the only requirement to achieve the ordering of
ones life would be to achieve detachment from all rdga-dvesa
which alone can stand as an obstacle to the will of God. After
that, it would only be a question of instruction on the way of
perfection which such a duly prepared sadhaka would accept
and assimilate without difficulty. Not so, Ignatius aims at a
mystical life. The finding of Gods will should be Gods own
revelation, Gods direct ( aparoksa) contact with the sadhaka
who hasvto prepare himself or herself for this. The ideal is to
let ones whole life, at all levels of decision, be atune to the
will of God under the inspiration of the life of Jesus Christ,
the supreme model for the Christian; specially to perceive the
will of God for ones concrete self here and how and not as
a copy of any other life. Ignatius does not want to teach the
sadhaka about the will of God. He does not know it. Only God
knows it. The retreatant who has overcome the self, i.e., all
false attachments, only prepares himself or herself to discover
the divine direction in life. This direction can only be known
by a mystical experience, a mystical level of consciousness.
Ignatius says that the retreat is not a time for good advice or
316 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
direct instruction by a guru much as this may be laudable
in other times and circumstances but a time so to seek the
Divine Reality that the Divine would itself reveal itself to the
sddhaka, making him or her ablaze with the divine Presence,
in love and adoration. The Creator will act directly on the
creature, and the creature directly deal with the Creator (15).
Four Weeks, Three Margas
The sadhana of the exercises is meant to last for about one
month. The sddhaka, called the retreatant, is asked to re
nounce for this time all worldly activities and to devote the
whole day including part of the night to prayer in a
variety of methods, to reflection, to making oneself open and
sensitive to the call of God. All the exercises, all the activities
are oriented to the one thing: to order ones life by seeking
and finding the divine purpose so as to act accordingly. The
month is divided into four so-called weeks, varying in length
according to the adhikara of the retreatant.
St. Ignatius himself relates the four weeks to the tradi
tional three ways or margas of the spiritual life as explained
in Christian mystical theology (10). This classification is evi
dently different from the three margas of classical Hinduism.
In the Christian context they represent successive stages of
the spiritual or mystical growth, not alternative ways for dif
ferent adhikdrins. However, elements of the first and second
stages continue to influence the third. The classification into
the three ways, called the purgative, the illuminative and
the unitive ways, was probably introduced into Christian lit
erature by that great lover of triads, the Pseudo-Dyonisius,
possibly a Syrian monk of aroud AD 500 who was deeply
influenced by Greek thought. He called the three ways the
purification of the uninitiated, the initiation of the purified
and the perfection of the initiated. (A parallel but differ
ent division is at times found in Christian literature, that of
beginners, proficient and perfect.)
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola
The first week of the Exercises corresponds obviously to
the way of purification. The centre of the sadhakas medita
tion is Gods mercies on ones own sins and on the evil of
the world, so that the meditation lead him or her to a new
burst of gratitude and life and a decision to enter the good
way in response to Gods mercy and forgiveness. The aim is
that the sadhaka comes to a clear frame of mind purified of
the sinful past and rejecting whatever is imperfect, as far as
he or she can, and of whatever may lead astray from Gods
path. Purification is the leitmotif. The strengthening of the
will of the retreatant is the major thrust. But obviously the
sadhaka alway counts on and prays for Gods grace in this
process of growth.
In the second week one enters into the period of illumina
tion. The focus is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ which
constitute the supreme model and inspiration for the Chris
tian believer. But this contemplation on the life of Jesus is
done from a specific perspective: what is the purpose of this
life, what orientation does it show? At the heart of the week
is the reflection and experience of the subtle ways in which
Jesus, and therefore the retreatant too, can be tempted under
the abhdsa of goodness: the ways of triumphalism, of victory
in God Vname, the external show that so often accompanies
religious attitudes and in fact corrupts them. Jesus is shown
as overcoming these temptations and taking a different path,
where he trod the ways of the poor, accepting the humilia
tions and the cross they brought, in love and without flinch
ing. The sadhaka is now authentically free of attachments or
fears to reflect on his or her own life and the orientation it has
to take, not so much at the general level of opting for good,
but at the concrete level of specific choices: how, in concrete,
will my life be ordered so as to reflect fully the divine will for
it? In which way has one to attain fhe good? Given the con
crete possibilities in my life, what is the option most atune
318 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
to the divine purpose?
To discover this and to embark upon it one cannot just
rely on tarka, reason, even if it is rightly applied. One needs
an illumination that raises us above the vyavaharika play of
reason and of good resolutions. Underlying the method used
here is the experience that first began at Loyola when Ig
natius was a convalescing soldier and which coloured all his
life and mysticism. While reading the life of Christ and of the
saints Ignatius would dream of all sorts of exploits for Christ
in the future of his life ahead of him. But Ignatius discovered
then a new world. Let me quote Paramananda Divarkar who
possibly better than anybody else has analyzed the conver
sion experience of Ignatius:
What made all the difference, and eventually
brought about a thorough transformation, was his
growing awareness of something that was taking
place at a level more profound than thought or
feeling, in an area of his being whose very exis
tence was a surprising revelation to him, where
he was most truly himself and closest to God.
This is how it happened: It dawned on him that
though he derived great pleasure both from his pi
ous considerations and from his sentimental rever
ies, yet deep down, the former brought him peace
and contentment, whilst the latter did not. He
came to recognize the first as godly that is,
as leading to God and presumably coming from
God whereas the others were not. A marginal
note added to the text of the Autobiography tells
us that this was first reflection on the things of
God; and laterf when he composed the Exercises,
it xuas from this experience that he began to clar
ify his ideas with regard to the diversity of spirits.
Ignatius religious experience had from the start
G is pert-S auch: St. Ignatius Loyola 319
two marked characteristics: it was the awareness
of a happening rather than of an idea, of an ac
tive God who not so much said as did something;
and it occurred at the depth of his personality
which became his base, so to speak, for respond
ing to God and for assessing the worth of all his
reactions to reality.2
This will be the method that he proposes to the sadhakas in
the Exercises. He wants them to reach the depth of the per
sonality, underneath the vrttis activated by meditation and
contemplation, to the level underlying the surface activity,
where God is most actively present. Perhaps we could speak
of a descent from the manas level to the buddhi, where true
wisdom resides, or deeper to the reality of the atman.
One might ask here why Ignatius does not follow the way
of quieting the vrttis through shutting out all the doors of
thought and affectivity. He rather uses the vrttis as passages
that lead him to the deeper level where the divine is directly
The contrast need not be exaggerated. In the Upanisads,
at any rate, sravana and manana are also means to reach the
brahmabodha. However this is not so in the way of Yoga or
in the Buddhist Vipassana meditation where the ideal is to
suppress all movements and activity of the mind.
On the other hand, although we do not find the ways of
Pataiijali Yoga in the method of Ignatius, still he does tell his
sadhaka that the mental activity should lead to the deeper
levels, and that one should stop and rest wherever one finds
spiritual fruit and satisfaction (76), because much knowledge
does not fill and satisfy a person but to internally experience
and taste reality (2). We think we have here the principle of
2 Ignatius of Loyola, the Inside Story in Vi dyaj yot i Journal 54 (1990,
p. 435).
Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
inwardness, of reaching the deeper levels of being well beyond
the world of the vrttis.
In spite of this convergence, I think that there are differ
ences in the spiritual discipline of the two paths, and they
are rooted in the different perceptions of the meaning of ac
tion. The Yoga tradition hopes to see the deeper levels of the
waters after achieving perfect prasada or quiet, serenity, be
cause the absence of ripples enables us to see the depth. The
Ignatian tradition seeks to perceive the divine in the power
underlying the movement of the waves. Action is the trans
parent epiphany of Being provided we are able to see it. And
Being is dynamic.
The exercitant or retreatant is taught by God the way
Ignatius was. We remember that he experienced the different
emotions during his readings at Loyola and how he sort of
detached himself from the first level or vrttis and could see
the underlying forces that were moving him, and so reach the
deeper levels where God was speaking to him. With patience
the sadhaka will be able to know with the certainty and depth
of the mystic, the purpose of God in his or her life, the orien
tation he or she should give to the life itself. It is interesting
to notice that one of the signs that Ignatius gives to discern
the authentic touch of God in the flow of ones vrttis as dis
tinguishable from inauthentic human or devilish influences, is
peace and deep joy. The Narada Bhakti Sutra also speaks in a
similar context of discernment of santiparamanandarupatvat.
This is the effect of the divine touch in the depths of the self.
If the second week is the period of illumination regard
ing ones life and ones future, the third and fourth weeks
together represent the unitive way. Their purpose is to seal
the awareness of Gods self-communication to the sadhaka
with a deeper personal experience of His presence, in some
ways similar to the abheda or advaita experience of the In
dian tradition, although probably not identically the same.
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola
The retreatant contemplates the passion and death of Jesus
(third week) and his risen life after the resurrection (fourth
week) as given in the Gospel accounts and other New Tes
tament texts. He or she sees him as the Lord who continues
invisibly present to the world and to the stidhaka and who
guides the exercitant and the community to whirl lie or she
belongs. The level of union with the Lord is now much more
than merely knowing the direction of ones life and Gods will
to be accomplished. It is a union at the deeper levels of the
person where the emotional and affective are rooted so that
the retreatant shares in the suffering and the joy of the Lord.
This sharing is not so much at the levels of harsa-soka as the
deep level of nirvana and ananda, or perhaps better, the level
of love in its purest and deepest form, both as suffering love
and joyful love. The retreatant achieves not only sympathy
for the Lord, a vibration of his emotions in reaction to the
Lords emotions, but a union, a real share in the very reality
of the death and new life of Jesus.
The Supreme Goal Beyond the Purpose
The goal of the Exercises of Ignatius is perhaps best expressed
in the last contemplation of the book that reflects his type
of mysticism. The purpose of this sadhana is summarised in
one pHrase: to have such an experience of the divine that one
enters into a new consciousness, a new basic attitude wherein
one is able ever to love and to serve\ It is at this level that
one could speak of an Ignatian abhedabhava because one is
able to find God in all things and all things in God. The iso
lation of the individual, his false autonomy, his metaphysical
distance from the Creator is overcome in a vision of union.
But this union is not static, solitary, a bath of the mystic in
pure being, alone with the alone, but a union with a being
that-eternally manifests itself in action or perhaps action,
karma, is not the right term, rather love, a dynamic and sav
322 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
ing power, the sakti which underlies the universe. Ignatius
hopes that the sadhaka will enter into a new consciousness of
the divine reality as operative within the whole universe and
renounce his or her autonomy and independence and surren
der to the power of love that surrounds the world.
The final goal of the sadhaka is perhaps best expressed in
the characteristic prayer which Ignatius asks the sadhaka to
pray repeatedly during this contemplation:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my mem
ory, my understanding, and my will all that I
have and possess. You, Lord, have given all that
to me. I now give it back to you, 0 Lord. All of
it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will.
Give me love of yourself along with your grace,
for that is enough for me. (234)
Here we seem to go beyond the scope of the sadhana of the
Exercises. We are no longer seeking the ways along which
we have to express our commitments. That was a necessary
step and orientation that was needed, the immediate issue of
the sadhana. But not the ultimate goal. The end is surrender
of everything to the Lord, letting the Lord take over, so to
speak, and live himself and act in the sadhaka. The sadhaka
needs only the infusion of a superior degree of love which can
only be Gods gift of grace. This is enough.
This dimension of Ignatian mysticism appears at first
sight to go deeper and beyond the mysticism of action. We
have a glimpse of it in the life and specially in the spiritual
Diary of Ignatius, a small portion of which (1544-45) has
been kept. It reveals a life of intimate communion with the
Trinity the God he had known from his infancy, from the
Church and from his theological studies. The diary and other
words of Ignatius show him in intimate union in the life of
God. He lives an intense awareness of the Father, the Son and
the Spirit, the foci of the Divine Unity.
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyoia
It would appear at first sight that the Incarnation is some
what lost sight of in this kind of writing. The active commit
ment is not mentioned in the Contemplation for Obtaining
Love. Only total surrender, the Divine taking hold of the crea
ture, and love as the one thing that lasts. Yet this apparent
transcendence of the experience of love is never quite remote
from concrete options: the contemplation is part of the Ex
ercises which are oriented to find the right option in life. The
Diary of Ignatius is written at the time of the inner delib
eration regarding concrete ways in which the Jesuits would
have to live in the Church and the world. This discernment
is essential to the Diary. The mystical includes and embraces
the concrete active options one takes, even if it overflows into
the realm of the absolute Mystery.
It is interesting to note that the contemplation sees the
divine reality as Source, as immanently active and as giving
out its own energy for the love of the whole created world.
The final vision is one of all things descending from that
Supreme Reality like the rays from the sun, the waters from
spring. We are not far away from the bimba-pratibimbavada,
even if interpreted in a Christian context, the dynamism of
all things being integrated into a unitary vision.
Thqg we are introduced in the mystical reality of Ignatius:
finding God in all things and all things in God an expression
reminiscent of a sloka of the Gita. His mysticism is not only
contemplative: it is one of surrender to the divine power of
love. All descends from above but, more important, all is an
expression of an active love that leads all things to a final con
summation. This would be the Ignatian abheda-bhava, non
separation (or is it bhedabhedal). The words have, of course,
different meanings in different contexts, but there is a har
mony of mystics.
This mysticism was marked by two important and strong
experiences Ignatius had at the beginning of his new life and
324 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
when he entered into its last phase. At the beginning, at the
side of a river the Cardoner, at Manresa, near Barcelona,
an evocative setting, he had an experience of illumination, a
synthetic and unified perception of the universe. According
to his own testimony, recorded by one of his faithful disci
ples, while sitting at a chapel facing the river the eyes of his
understanding began to be opened; not that he saw any vi
sion, but he understood and learnt many things, both spiritual
matters and matters of faith and of scholarship and this was
with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new
to him, to which the scribe comments at the margin, this
left his understanding so very enlightened that he felt as if
he were another man with another mind. Ignatius continues
the narrative to his reporter: The details of that he under
stood then, though they were many, cannot be stated, but
only that he experienced a great clarity in his understanding.
This was such that in the whole course of his life, after com
pleting sixty-two years, even if he gathered up all the various
helps he may have had from God and all the various things he
has known, even adding them all together, he does not think
he had got as much as at that one tirrie(30).3 We must re
member that in between he had spent a dozen years at the
university and taken a Masters degree in theology! Are we
reminded of the illumination under the Bo-Tree?
If the first great experience was clearly illuminative, the
second was clearly unitive in an Ignatian sense. As he enters
the last period of his life Ignatius, now forty seven years old,
walks towards Rome to find out the concrete service required
of him and his companions. But he desires that this service
be not his own decision and action or theirs, but Gods own
action through them. God acts in his Son Jesus and Ignatius
wanted to be integrated into that saving action. As he ap
proaches Rome he enters a church to pray and he expori-
3See Ablaze with God, presented by P. Divarkar, pp. 57-58.
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola 325
ences such an inward change and saw so clearly that God the
Father placed him with Christ his Son that he would not dare
to doubt it that God the Father had placed him with his
Son (96). A companion of that period recalls that the Son
was the Son who carried the cross.
This experience tells us symbolically important elements
of Ignatian mysticism:
(a) It comes from God: it is not the result of a sddhctnd.
It has to be received. He is not worthy of it, he cannot make
himself into a companion of Jesus.
(b) The experience which characterised his whole life,
places him in intimate union with Jesus: this is why he insists
that his group be called company of Jesus. Jesus is at the
centre of the Ignatian sddhand. His life is an association with
Jesus. And Jesus means for Ignatius an active presence of
God in our history the Jesus of the Gospels, working the
salvation by preaching, healing, forgiving, suffering, choosing
the poor and the unimportant people. It is therefore a mys
ticism of dedication to the Reign of Gods saving power in
(c) Specifically it is Jesus with the cross. In his vision
of life and of history Ignatius saw that the fear of suffering,
specially the fear of being humiliated, of losing power, of los
ing control of life, is the great block for people to live the
authentic religion of love which Jesus had preached and to
come into deep union with God. Ignatius faces this fear of
duhkha in a frontal attack. He fixed his eyes on Jesus on the
cross and develops in himself and wants to develop in his
followers 'a relish of the cross' even the most unnerving and
humiliating aspects of it, because of the memory of Jesus on
it: not. of course, a cross where suffering is glorified, but a
cross where suffering is lovingly accepted when it comes as
result of seeking the rule of God's love in our midst. If we
tend to prostitute our deepest values because of the fear of
326 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
suffering, the memory of Jesus on the cross enables Ignatius
the mystic to use even suffering and humiliation as a means
of love. The problem of suffering is solved not by an analysis
of its causes but by the acceptance of its effect when pervaded
by love. It is a mysticism centred on the person and history of
Jesus, on the mystery of the cross as the supreme expression
of love and salvation.
(d) The mysticism centered on Jesus goes beyond Jesus:
Jesus actually leads Ignatius to the Father and to the Mys
tery of God whom he knows as triune. There love translates
itself less in activity and more in total surrender. Passivity, or
rather letting the Divine Presence be operative. Its reflection
in the human spirit can only be described as unqualified love.
The Depths
The title of this essay speaks of an active mysticism. We
may indeed describe the mysticism of Ignatius as active, as
expressing itself in service, but it would be wrong to see it as
a mere spirituality of activity, a mere inspiration for devoting
our life to good works for God. It is deeper than that. We are
dealing here with a mysticism which operates at the depth of
the personality, not merely at the level of action and day-to-
day decision. In the early experiences of Loyola and Manresa
Ignatius learns to discover this depth dimension. The mind
and the senses are not renounced, but the core of the person
is elsewhere.
The ultimate reality in every human being, or
that which each individual most truly is, has been
variously designated: the unique person, the tran
scendent self, the apex of the soul, the heart which
God alone can directly reach, the spirit that has
a mysterious kinship with the divine spirit, the
dtman that illumines ones most intimate psycho
logical processes . . . whatever it be, this is where
Gispert-Sauch: St. Ignatius Loyola
Ignatius takes his stand; it becomes his base, so
to speak, from where to respond to God and to
all reality; and to scrutinize, in the light of this
response, his other reactions at other levels of his
being, and to distinguish in them what is authen
tic and what is not.4
It is from this depth, where distance between creature and
Creator has been, so to speak, shortened, where the veil of
mdyd that affirms autonomy drops, where the resistance of
sensual nature to suffering and the cross is overcome, where
God is in direct touch with the human personality and the
person is totally free to allow himself or herself to become part
of the divine action of love in the world, that the mysticism
of action springs. This is the level Ignatius discovered and
wanted his sddhaka to discover. Here he becomes, and his
followers would want to become, channels or expressions of
Gods own active and saving love. Beyond this there is only
the final resurrection in union with Jesus Christ and when
Jesus Christ, the Son, will also be subjected to him who
put all things under him, that God may be everything to
everyone. (1 Cor 15:28).
4 P. Divarkar, Ablaze with God, p. 135.
The Approach of Kashmir Saivism
Bettina Baumer
narasaktisivatmakam trikam
hrdaye yd vinidhdya bhdsayet
pranamdmi pardm anuttaram
nijabhasdm pratibhdcamatkrtim.
Mahgalasloka 3
Paratrisikd Vivarana
I offer homage to the supreme and
Unsurpassable (Deity Consciousness),
the Wonder of ever new Insight,
shining in its own light,
Who reveals the trinity of the created
Qivine Energy and 3iva,
holding them in Her Heart.
We begin this reflection on the relationship between aes
thetics and mysticism in the so-called Kashmir Saivism,
and especially in Abhinavagupta, by invoking the great God
dess Consciousness, in the words of the third Mangalasloka
of Abhinavaguptas Pardtrtsika Vivarana} Whether we un
derstand hrdaya as the heart of the Supreme Consciousness
'Abhinavagupta, Paratrisi ka- Vivarana. The Secret of Tantric Myst i
ci sm. Trans, by Jaideva Singh. Delhi (Motilal Banarsidass). 1988.
330 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Herself, in which even the trinity ( trika) is contained and re
vealed (Jaideva Singh), or as the heart of the author (Abhi-
navagupta), in which She places the Three, nara, Sakti and
3iva (R. Gnoli), this verse reveals the wonderful nature of
Goddess Consciousness. She is herself of the nature of prati-
bhd-camatkrti, the sudden, intuitive delight or wonder of (at
the same time aesthetic and mystical) experience. It implies
that the trinity or trika would not be known unless the flash
of this intuition is realized in the heart and ultimately the
heart of the Goddess Consciousness (dew svdtma samvitti, v.
2) is not different from the heart of the devotee or sddhaka,
hence the ambivalence.
Much has been said and written about the unity and
yet difference of the aesthetic and the mystical experience
in Abhinavagupta and his predecessors as well as followers,
and I should not repeat well-known facts. But on the back
ground of all this I want to focus on the question expressed
in the title of this paper: Mysticism of Aesthetics or Aesthet
ics of Mysticism? The aesthetic experience has to do with
the senses ( indriyaf karana)ywhereas the mystical experience
transcends the senses and reaches to the Unsurpassable, Ab
solute ( anuttara).
There are three levels where this question can be dis
cussed: on the metaphysical level, on the level of aesthetic or
mystical experience, and on the level of artistic or spiritual
practice. Obviously, the last is meant to lead to the second
and ultimately get merged in the reality expressed by the
first. One could start either from above, from the theoreti
cal, or below, from the experiential, and the result reached
would be the same. In fact, the three levels are totally inter
dependent: sarvam sarvdtmakam?
Obviously, it is not possible to deal with all the three levels
in all the traditions and texts, and here we can only throw
2Cp. Paratrxfika Vivarana, op. cit., p. 91 and passim.
Baiumer: Aesthetics of Mysticism
light on some aspects which may have received less attention
in the study of aesthetics. All the points raised in this paper
have to be placed in the context of the great mandala of
the Trika system. Like in a mandala, we have first to draw
the lines, and then place the coloured powder in the various
Since we are expressing ideas which have been conceived
in Sanskrit through the medium of a foreign language which
has been imprinted by a different tradition, we have to be
careful in using certain concepts. The very words aesthetics
and mysticism have a history of their own in the European
tradition which cannot be ignored when using them.3 But a
conscious use of such terms can also lead to a mutual en
richment of traditions and to a clarification, as we can see in
many works of A.K. Coomaraswamy, for instance.
Aesthetics has to do with beauty. But what do we un
derstand by beauty?4 One of the basic definitions of beauty
in the European tradition is harmony. Its opposite, ugliness,
is disharmony, dissonance. Harmony is an agreement of the
beautiful thing and the source of Beauty, God and hence
the beautiful (thing) is a reflection of the original. For
the definition of these basic concepts we may quote Thomas
In existing things, the beautiful and the beauty
are distinguished . . . . . . for the beautiful is
3Cp. the article by Alois Haas in this volume.
4Cp. D.H.H. Ingalls, Words for Beauty in Classical Sanskrit Poetry ,
in: Indological Studies in Honor of W. Norman Brown, ed. by E. Bender,
American Oriental Series 47, New Haven, Conn., AOS, 1962, pp. 87-107;
A.K. Coomaraswamy, The Mediaeval Theory of Beauty , in: Selected
Papers I, Tradit ional Art and Symbol ism, ed. by R. Lipsey, Princeton
University Press, 1977, pp. 189-228.
5In the translation of A.K. Coomaraswamy, art. cit. pp. 212-13.
332 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
what participates in beauty, and beauty is the
participation of the First Cause, which makes all
things beautiful. The creatures beauty is naught
else but a likeness (similitudo) of divine beauty
participated in by all things.
Coomaraswamy, in his note, relates this likeness to the idea
of reflection, but he does not elaborate. In the context of
Kashmir Saivism, the conception of the world as dbhasa or
pratibimba of the Divine Original ( bimba) would be the first
starting point in a metaphysics of beauty. As for the dif
ference between participation and reflection, the latter is
never understood in the sense of an illusory appearance by
Abhinavagupta. It is interesting to note that in the context
of the four updyas, the theory of pratibimba is used in the
highest, sdmbhavopdya, where everything is related to and
every means leads to a full participation in the Divine Re
ality. The description Abhinavagupta gives in his Tantrasdra
III of pratibimba is far from a simple theory of reflection as
appearance. Besides the example from which the very word is
derived, i.e. a reflection in the mirror, where the reflection is
the entire world and the mirror is pure consciousness, he also
uses comparisons from sense-experience (smell, taste, touch
and sound). Let us consider the example of sound: pratibimba
is compared to echo resounding in space. This echo is not the
original sound, because the one who has produced it hears
it as if it were the voice of somebody else, but in fact it is
his own voice. What Abhinavagupta wants to say in all these
examples is that the pratibimba is in reality not different from
bimba, the original. But this advaita is not illusionistic, it al
lows for a difference which makes the aesthetic experience
possible. It comes closer to participation in the scholastic
Abhinavagupta summarizes his idea of pratibimba thus:
Just as all this appears like a reflection, in the
Bumer; Aesthetics of Mysticism 333
same way the universe appears in the light of the
Supreme Lord.
(If you ask:) What is the (original) image (that is
reflected here)?
(I answer:) It is nothing.
(You further ask:) Has then the reflection no
Are you asking for a cause and how it is re
flected? This cause is nothing but the Energy of
the Supreme Lord, called Freedom. Ultimately
it is the Lord who contains in Himself all the re
flected reality and wnose Self is the All, because
the universe is of the nature of Consciousness, it
is the locus of the revelation of Consciousness.6
Since the universe is reflected in Consciousness,
this is the cause of all reflections.
Tantrasdra III
Thus the first connotation of beauty is related to reflection,
likeness and participation in the original, perfect image
of pure Consciousness but not in a static sense, because
manifestation is produced by the very svdtantryasakti of the
Lord. What this means in the field of mystical experience will
be seen liter.
Another aspect of beauty as harmony in the Western tra
dition is called consonantia in Latin note the musical im
plication of the term. Let us first consider the scholastic def
inition by Thomas Aquinas, who is elaborating on Dionysius
the Areopagite:
Again, he explains the other part, viz. that God
is the cause of the harmony ( consonantia) that
is in things. But this harmony in things is of two
sorts. The first as regards the order of creatures
6sarnvi nmayam hi vi&vam cai tanyasya vyakt ist hnam iti.
334 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
to God, and he touches upon this when he says
that God is the cause of harmony for that it sum
mons all things to itself, inasmuch as He (or it)
turns about all things toward Himself (or itself),
as being their end, as was said above; wherefore in
the Greek, beauty is called kalos, which is derived
from . . . to summon. And second, harmony is in
creatures accordingly as they are ordered to one
another; and he touches upon when he says that
it gathers together all in all to be one and same.
Which may be understood in the sense of the Ela-
tonists, viz. that higher things are in the lower by
participation, the lower in the higher eminently
. . ., and thus all things are in all. And since all
things are thus found in all according to some or
der, it follows that all are ordered to one and the
same last end.7
We need not simply identify these concepts, because each
carries with it its own associations, but similarly samatd
or sdmya is the central concept of harmony in Kashmir
Saivism. Again, samatd is not a static identity or sameness,
it implies a harmony, balance, equilibrium, and also a sense
of proportionality (according to the meaning of sama). It im
plies the same inter-relatedness of all things, high and low
(sarvam sarvdtmakam). The goal of Saiva Yoga is this very
samatd, which has all these implications, ranging from the
supreme, mystical level to the level of social equality.8
The very first verse of the Pardtnsikd opens with the
7Art. d t . , p. 213.
*Cp. B. Baumer, Cosmic Harmony: Samat d in Kashmir aivism,
in: Universal Responsi bil it y. Felicitation Volume in Honour of H.H. The
14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso on His 60th Bi rt hday, ed. by R.C.
Tiwari and Krishna Nath. New Delhi, The Foundation for Universal
Responsibility, 1995, pp. 111-19.
Baumer: Aesthetics of Mysticism
question of the Devi addressed to Bhairava:
anuttaram katham deva
sadyah kaulikasiddhidamfl
yena vijndta mdtrena
khecari-samatdm vrajet.
It would be worthwhile to comment on Abhinavaguptas ex
position of the word khecart-samatd in his Vivarana. After
stating the metaphysical meaning, he comes down to the
sense-experience and the aesthetic experience.9 The meta
physical meaning is clear:
Therefore, homogeneousness ( sdmya or samatd)
of the khecari-sakti constitutes liberation. This
homogeneousness (sameness) of the khecari-sakti
is due to the awareness of the essential nature of
the anuttara (i.e. the unsurpassable Absolute Re
ality) which is constantly present and which arises
from the bliss of the recognition of the completion
of the union of the divine Sakti with Siva, and ac
quires stability by the realization of the conscious
ness of bliss of both ( ubhayavimarsdnandarudhi).
PTV, Tr. Jaideva Singh, p. 42
Abhinavagupta then elaborates on the process of creativity as
well as the sensual experience which brings about this state
of khecart-samatd. It is interesting that he not only describes
the process in the case of a pleasurable experience, such as
love, or hearing of sweet music, but also in the case of grief
or suffering. If the heart is attuned to the oneness of khecari
(sahrdayatd), even painful experiences can lead to the same
9Cp. K.D. Tripathi, From Sensuous to Supersensuous - An Inquiry
into some terms of Indian Aesthetics, in: B. Baumer (Ed.), Prakrt i
III: The Agami c Tradition and the Art s, New Delhi (IGNCA and D.K.
Printworld) 1994.
state of harmony. Harmony is always between two or more
entities, and here the ultimate state of samatd is that between
/ /
Siva and Sakti, representing all the polarities in the universe,
which is experientially achieved in the consciousness of the
yogin or sadhaka.10 What Abhinavagupta describes in this
context is a process of integration of sense-experience (it may
be erotic, aesthetic, or an intense experience of pain) with the
supreme and unalterable Divine Consciousness ( nistaranga,
dhruvapada). Thus it also implies the integration of a fleet
ing emotion with a permanent state of mystical identification.
Here it is not a question of a clear-cut distinction between the
aesthetical and the mystical, but, on the basis of an ongoing
spiritual practice,11 the sense-experience triggers the mysti
cal realization described as kaulikasiddhi and khecarT-samata
( Pardtrisikd v. 1).
We have mentioned two essential characteristics of
beauty: reflection or participation, and harmony. The third
quality which is universally valid is that beauty has to do
with light, clarity or transparency. Things are beautiful in
sofar as they radiate or reflect light, both in a physical as
well as metaphysical sense. Pure beauty is always transpar
ent, and allows an intelligibility of its own, depending on the
medium. This is a very vast subject which I can only hint at
without elaborating. Again, to quote Thomas Aquinas, who
comments on Dionysius saying that God is the cause of har
mony and lucidity:
Applying the same principle proportionately in
other beings, we see that any of them is called
beautiful according as it has its own generic lu
cidity ( claritatem sui generis), spiritual or bodily
as the case may be, and according as it is consti-
10Cp. PTV, trans. p. 44.
11 Abhinavagupta declares that this text is meant for advanced disci
ples and not for beginners.
336 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
Baumer: Aesthetics of Mysticism
tuted with due proportion.
How God is the cause of this lucidity he shows,
saying that God sends out upon each creature, to
gether with a certain flashing ( quodam fulgore), a
distribution of his luminous raying7(radii) which
is the font of all light; which flashing distribu
tions (traditiones) are to be understood as a par
ticipation of likeness; and these distributions are
beautifying77, that is to say, are the makers of the
beauty that is in things.12
Now, light, prakdsa, is the main characteristic of the Divine
nature in Kashmir Saivism, as in most Indian systems. But
this pure Light-of-Consciousness is not experienced without
its reflection, vimarsa. It is in this dynamic relationship of
prakdsa and vimarsa that the aesthetic experience is to be
placed, where, just as we have seen in the case of khecart-
samatd, the beauty of the reflection is thrown back onto the
source of beauty, the source of Light: prakdsa. The entire
manifestation is nothing but an expansion of the original
Light appearing in all the forms of the universe:
Similarly Bhairava who is of the nature of light
(i.e. spiritual light of consciousness) is self-proved,
beginningless, primal, the ultimate in all respects,
and present in everything. What else is to be said
regarding Him? He displays His Light identically
(svaprakdsam prakdsayati) in the expansion of all
the categories of existence (e.g. the 36 tattvas),
all the objective phenomena ( bhdvas), and views
them all as Himself ( tathaiva ca vimarsati) in His
self-delight (camatkdratve) which never vanishes
( anapeta). That which is this perception in that
way (i.e. as identical with Himself), makes His
l2Coomaraswamy, art. dt . , p. 213.
338 Mysticism in Shaivism and Christianity
self-revelation ( bhdsana) evident in lakhs, crores,
ten crores ( arbuda), ten arbudas of endless fu
ture ( bhavt) manifestations and absorptions to be
brought about by mdyd and thus he appears in
those very forms ( tatharupam eva bhavati).
PTV, pp. 111-12
To show that these are not abstract ideas, we could analyze
here the use of artistic metaphors, which are not accidental
but central to Kashmir 3aivism. Every darsana has ^set of
basic metaphors which serve to illustrate the philosophical
truths. Not by chance the two frequently used metaphors
are taken from painting on the one hand, and drama on the
other. Music does not serve as a metaphor, though it pervades
a lot of Abhinavaguptas speculations on the power of the
Word ( vdk, mantra), etc. The metaphor of painting illustrates
the idea of dbhdsa and of the world as an image (jagaccitra)
created by the Divine Artist.13 It does not have illusionistic
overtones, as the same image has in Vedanta.14 The image is
real, and yet entirely dependent on the freedom of the creator.
Here the svdtantrya-sakti is the main characteristic of the
Divine as well as human artist. Art can only be created by a
spirit of freedom. The implication of the metaphor of painting
is obviously the beauty of the work of art which produces
a sense of wonder ( camatkdra) and leads the observer to a
state of identification.15 The entire bimba-pratibimba-vada is
related, not only to an image in a mirror, but to the metaphor
13Cp. Bettina Baumer, The Divine Artist, in: The Indian
Theosophist, Thakur Jaideva Singh Felicitation Number, Oct.-Nov.
1985, Vol. 82, 10-11, pp. 79-86.
14 Cp. Daksinamurti Stotra.
15It is interesting to note that sculpture is not used as an important
metaphor in Kashmir aivism, as it is in Southern &aiva Siddhanta, esp.
the figure of &iva Nataraja.
Baumer: Aesthetics of Mysticism
of painting.
The second artistic metaphor used is that of drama: ja~
ganndtya,16 Leaving aside here the Abhinava Bhdrati, we may
reflect on the Siva-Sutras which elaborate on this simile,
starting from the Sutra nartaka atmd, The Self is an ac
tor/dancer (III.9 and if.).
According to the commentator, Ksemaraja, this is said
of the self-realized yogin who becomes one with the Lord.
Ksemaraja explains his action as be